Hidden Plastics: Spilling the tea on Tea

A hot cup of tea can be just what you need on a cold winter’s day. But before you heat up the kettle, we have some major tea to spill.

 You may heard that more than 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year globally.  Tea bags are probably the last item that crossed your mind in relation to this issue. As the second most consumed beverage in the world, tea bags are likely the least-known source of single-use plastic filling our oceans and land. Even worse, they can leech plastic into your favourite brew.

 So, what’s the Tea?

 A recent study done by the University of McGill, in the Canada found that when a plastic tea bag was dunked in boiling water, it released more than 11 billion micro-plastic particles and 3 billion nano plastic particles. And I’m not sure about you, but a hot cup of plastic doesn’t sound like a nice winter’s beverage. Although this is only for plastic teabags; paper teabags have significant impacts on our environment too.

Paper teabags contain a small amount of non-biodegradable polypropylene (aka plastic) that is used to keep the tea bag sealed. Environmentally damaging, the polypropylene accounts for nearly 25% of the teabag. This combined with the large amount consumed across the globe means it has an enormous effect on the environment.

Around the world polypropylene has been targeted as a major cause of the single-use plastic disaster. Used in majority of single-use plastic items including plastic cutlery, plates and straws many countries and states are beginning to ban these products. To name a few Taiwan, Zimbabwe, France, Seattle, Malibu have all put a ban in place with more recently Queensland joining the list (as of July 2021).

With more counties and states set to join, now more than ever brands have an increased pressure to change. Some brands are using polylactic acid; a bioplastic made from plant materials instead of oil. Although a better alternative to polypropylene, experts consider this to also be a single use plastic. 

What can I do?

As a consumer, it is important that we become educated and more aware of the negative effects these ingredients and materials are having on our environment. Increased pressure from consumers means manufacturers are more likely to change. Plus, it significantly reduces the waste that goes in your bin at home.

What tea should I buy?

Loose leaf tea is the best, most sustainable option to avoid both drinking plastic and adding to the single-use plastic disaster. Loose leaf tea can be purchased in bulk in both paper packaging and by tin. If you don’t want to make the switch, it is important to research your favourite tea brands to ensure they are completely plastic free. Look out for plant-based fibres including corn-starch and cellulose.


Let us know your favourite plastic free tea brands below!

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