The Fourth Idea: Spilling the tea on tea bags

After recently discovering the existence of our food bin, we have been avid composters of all of our biodegradable waste. We were therefore surprised to learn that one of the items we compost the most – tea bags – often aren´t compostable! Turns out many tea brands, particularly cheaper ones, use the non-biodegradable plastic called polypropylene in their tea bags (Resource.co). The purpose of the polypropylene plastic is to seal the tea bags during production, as the plastic melts when it is heated. Although only about a quarter of the tea bag consists of plastic, the amount of plastic waste quickly adds up when considering the dozens of tea bags our ‘sustainable’ flat goes through weekly. According to a spokesperson from Yorkshire Tea, “Our tea bag material contains around 25 percent polypropylene which we believe is typical for the market” (Resource.co). Some of the tea brands we discovered to use polypropylene in their tea bags were:

  • Tetley, £3.55 for 160 tea bags
  • PG Tips, £3.55 for 160 tea bags
  • Twinings Everyday, £4.00 for 100 tea bags
  • Yorkshire Tea, £4.55 for 160 tea bags

(Country Living)

Additionally, many store-brand or cheaper tea brands are also likely to use plastic in their tea bags, as it is one of the cheapest forms of manufacture. (Although they are not obliged to state whether the tea bags contain plastic on their packaging…)

Not cool, Yorkshire Tea.
Source: souvernirfinder.com

Using plastic in tea bags was clearly much more common than we thought! We are definitely guilty of both using and composting tea bags containing plastic. So which tea brands should you be buying in order to avoid plastic-containing tea bags? Well, according to an article by The Independent, there are several brands that pride themselves on having plastic free tea bags. These include:

  • We Are Tea, £2.49 for 15 bags
  • Eteaket, £4.95 for 15 bags
  • Nemi Tea, £5.99 for 15 bags
  • Roqberry, £6.00 for 18 bags
  • Pukka Herbs, £2.50 for 20 bags
  • Teapigs, £3.99 for 15 bags
  • Good and Proper, £5.00 for 15 bags
  • T2, £7.50 for 25 bags
  • Twinings Loose Leaf Pyramid Bag, £6.50 for 15 bags

Although these brands seem great, we must admit that most of them were rather pricey, and after all we are just students. But fear not, students, there are also some cheaper options! Co-op just announced last year that their own-brand Fairtrade Tea Blend is going to be produced plastic-free! At only £1.10 for 80 tea bags, this is definitely a tea we can get behind. According to Co-op’s Food CEO Jo Whitfield, they have developed a new way of sealing their tea bags that does not require polypropylene plastic (Co-op). Other lower-budget tea brands whose tea bags do not contain plastic are Clipper (£3.50 for 100 tea bags) and Aldi’s Specially Selected range (£0.79 for 50 tea bags), making it fully possible to buy tea plastic-free on a student budget! We definitely know which tea brands we will be buying next (after finishing all of the plastic-containing tea bags we already have, oops.)

Way to go, Co-op!

However, the absolute best way to drink tea with the minimal amount of waste is to go old-school: using loose-leaf tea. Loose-leaf tea contains much less packaging, doesn’t have to be expensive at all and, according to some, tastes even better! Investing in a tea strainer will only set you back a couple of quid, and it gives you a tea bag for life. And if you’re making your tea in a teapot you don’t even need a tea strainer at all. We know that portioning out your loose leaf tea might take a couple extra seconds than throwing your ready made tea bag into your mug in the morning, but we think those extra seconds are worth it.

Our trusty tea strainer ❤
Fact: tea strainers make very aesthetic photos.
Tea was spilled (actually).

More on plastic in the next post!

References:

Avis-Riordan, Katie: Even out tea bags contain plastic – so these are the brands you should be using. [online] Countryliving.com. Available at: https://www.countryliving.com/uk/create/food-and-drink/news/a3291/plastic-tea-bags-environment/ [Accessed 20. Feb. 2019]

Hayns-Washington, Sid: Should you put tea bags in you food waste bin? [online] Resource.co. Available at: https://resource.co/article/should-you-put-tea-bags-your-food-waste-bin-12372 [Accessed 20. Feb. 2019]

Henderson, Emma: 9 best plastic free tea bags. [online] TheIndependent.co.uk. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/food-drink/9-best-plasticfree-teabags-a8505981.html [Accessed 20. Feb. 2019]

Whitfield, Jo: We’re working on biodegradable paper tea bags. [online] Blog.Coop.co.uk. Available from: https://blog.coop.co.uk/2018/01/27/were-working-on-biodegradable-paper-tea-bags/ [Accessed 20. Feb. 2019]

Prices of teas taken from the brand’s own website or sainsburys.com.

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2 thoughts on “The Fourth Idea: Spilling the tea on tea bags

  1. Thanks for another though provoking blog! How many tea bags are used each day in UK? We now need to petition Taylor’s who produce Yorkshire Tea to change their teabags and use another brand in the meantime!

    Liked by 1 person

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