Cuppa plastic?

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A couple of years ago, I was first made aware of the fact that teabags contain plastic.  All these years I have been putting the kettle on, pouring hot water over the teabag, letting it steep for several minutes, and then consuming the beverage.  I even composted the teabag afterwards!  I was shocked that I was not aware of this sooner, and also that it was not common knowledge.  Then again, I never even questioned it!

As soon as I found out, I stopped composting teabags.  Plastic has no place in my compost soil that I will later use to grow food!  However, by that time, I am sure that many of those teabags had biodegraded the other materials, such as paper, and now only the microplastic was left in my poor compost bucket.

I switched exclusively to loose-leaf tea.  No plastic involved, as long as I make sure the packaging of the tea is also plastic-free.  This usually means shopping at Bulk Barn with my own container (pre-COVID), or Fullfill in Kimberley, OR contacting a local tea extraordinaire to ask if I can fill my jar of tea, such as Purcell Organics.

Some of you may not have yet made the switch.  And some of you may not even want to, so I decided to do a little asking around.  I thought of tea companies that I typically see on the shelves of local grocery stores: Twinings, Tetley, Lipton, Stash, Celestial Seasonings, and No Name brand.  I recall David’s Tea using bags as well.

I contacted the aforementioned tea companies with the simple question:

What are your teabags made of?

I received the following responses, or non-responses (shortened for your convenience):

Twinings: Teabags are made of approximately 8% recycled plastic as a binding agent.  Are currently working with suppliers toward a plastic-free teabag.

Tetley: Teabags are made of a mixture of high-quality wood pulp and thermoplastics (heat sensitive plastic for sealing).  Are actively working with suppliers for a more sustainable alternative.

Lipton: No response.

Stash: Teabags are made of 100% wood fibers, and appear white from air being forced between the fibers. No chemicals and no plastics used in the teabags.

Celestial Seasonings: No response.

No Name: No response.

David’s Tea: Sachets are made of soilon and are “oxo-biodegradable”.  (Please note: a plastic that is considered biodegradable is only truly biodegradable under very specific conditions, such as consistent temperature and moisture for a specific period of time, in a special facility, and are typically NOT biodegradable in an environment such as a home compost).

How do you do teatime?  Will you switch from teabags to loose leaf?  What brands do you purchase and what are their bags made of?  It is worth looking into, as microplastics are wreaking havoc on our natural world.  It is our responsibility to make ourselves aware if companies are not transparent about their materials.

For the above non-responses, I shall try again.

Have a fantastic Plastic Free July!

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Tea by Purcell Organics

7 comments

  1. I am glad you posted this, because it prompted me look up the Red Rose brand again (I drink their bagged tea as well as several brands of loose tea). I thought their boxes stated the bags were made of 100% plant material, which is why I stayed with the brand, but this statement is in fact only on their Organic Orange Pekoe tea from what I can see online…maybe that means all their other blends do contain plastic? If so, my compost also has plastic since I didn’t buy the organic blend last time. Plastic is so ridiculously insidious. Argh.

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    • I feel like we can’t win sometimes! But then again, I never questioned it before, so it was just me not knowing. Red Rose is one I forgot to ask. Have you contacted them directly? We have some pretty stellar tea-makers in this region, so I will stick with those for now. Or maybe I can try growing some of my own herbs to make tea… a goal for another time!

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      • I haven’t contacted them directly yet but I guess I’m being cynical: if they go out of their way to label the organic blend as 100% plant material tea bags but don’t mention it on the other blends, I figured the other blends are not in 100% plant material bags. I could be wrong! Apart from tea bag composition, I think Red Rose does a good job with other areas of environmental stewardship. If they offered loose leaf, I’d be pretty pumped!

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