Whats in your tea bag? Paper and tea you wish but actually no.
Firstly is your bag made from paper? Are you sure? Because when you think about it if it really was made from paper why doesn’t it go all soggy when you submerge it in boiling water?
Plastic In The Bag
Well it could be because the actual bag that you thought was paper, does in fact contain plastic. This came to light when keen composters found fine plastic mesh in their compost bins. It was the plastic web that holds the teabags together and that doesn’t biodegrade.
The following was taken from the Guardian A report published today by Which? Gardening reveals that teabags produced by top tea manufacturers such as
are only between 70-80% biodegradable. As a result, gardeners are finding the net part of teabags – caused by the inclusion of heat-resistant polypropylene – left on their compost heaps. Which? Gardening contacted the major tea manufacturers to check the content of their products. PG Tips responded: “‘Like most of the teabags in the UK, our teabags are made with about 80% paper fibre, which is fully compostable along with the tea leaves contained in the bag. The remaining packaging includes a small amount of plastic which is not fully biodegradable.”
Plastic Glue To Seal Them
Then there is the sealing. Wikipedia claims “Heat-sealed tea bag paper usually has a heat-sealable thermoplastic such as PVC or polypropylene as a component fiber on the inner tea bag surface.”
OR that the paper has been treated with Epichlorohydrin to make it stronger
In the USA Epichlorohydrin is considered to be a potential carcinogen for purposes of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) hazard communication standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200.
European Statement from Dow Chemical:
“The substance should be regarded as if it is carcinogenic to man. There is sufficient evidence to provide a strong presumption that human exposure to the substance may result in the development of cancer.”
It is also used in epoxy resins, textiles, inks, dyes and rubber. Read more here.
And those bags are so white because they have been bleached with chlorine.
All Plastic Bags
So much so you might feel almost relieved to know that some tea bags are actaully made from plastic. Those silky pyramids for posh tea may not be silk but synthetic fibres.
Plastic Free Tea Bags
The technology is out there to make plastic free teabags that are not coated with Epichlorohydrin.
Teabags can be made from
PLA—polylactic acid, can be used to make silky bags.
manila hemp cellulose fibres can be used to make paper bags
You can get paper bags that have not been treated with epichlorohydrin that have been made from oxygen washed fibers with no polluting whiteners used.
For example these from Twinings Few things in life are as fresh and delicious tasting as loose leaf tea – or as simple and convenient as the teabag. The good news is, our pyramid shaped silk teabags let you enjoy the best of both worlds. We call them silky pyramids – althoughf the bag is in fact made from a manmade, biodegradable fabric. Looking through the prism-shaped mesh, you can see the beautiful whole dried leaves of tea or colourful buds, where they’ve got just the right amount of room to swirl about in the hot water and release their flavour.You can read more here.
Or Pukka herbs whose tea bag paper is made of a special blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres.
Sounds good right. Hold your horses… sadly plastic free tea bags doesn’t mean plastic free tea. TWinings pyramid envelopes are made from PET 12um / Polyethylene EVOH 60um which unfortunately is not recyclable. And pukka plastic free tea bags come in tea sachets (envelopes) that have a Polyethylene lamination.
Plastic Free Teabags (usually in plastic packaging)
Twinings silky teabags are made from PLA but come plastic packed
Tea Pig plastic free teabags but plastic in the packaging
Pukka herbs use natural abaca but teabag envelopes are plastic lined.
These I dont know about the packaging.
Tetley Black & Green tea uses Perflo paper bags, which are free of epichlorohydrin.
Numi Tea: manila hemp cellulose, and free of epichlorohydrin. The tags are made from 100%
recycled material and soy-based inks.
Rishi Tea: PLA silky bag
EDEN Organic: oxygen washed manila fibers sealed with 100% cotton string.
Organic Stash: 100% cellulose fibers
Two Leaves Organic Teas: biodegradable cornstarch based nylon,
Organic Traditional Medicinals: unbleached bags made from abacá ( Manila hemp)
Organic Yogi Teas: Manila hemp (abaca) fibers and wood pulp, oxygen bleached.
Thanks to Clean Plate for the following information. Visit their website for more.
NB while thenbags may be free from, the packaging may contain plastic.
So to conclude most teabags are rather nasty and contain chemicals and plastic.
Some teabags are compostable and chemical free but often the rest of the packaging contains plastic..
Tea Bags In Compostable Packaging
And yet in a strange twist of fate you can get conventional tea bags that contain plastic in compostable packaging.
Twinings pack their conventional teabags ( have a plastic content) in compostable packaging. Their Everyday teabag line in the UK comes in a cardboard box with no cellophane. Inside the bags are packed in sealed bags of Innovia’s Natureflex NM material. This is a shiny foil like “plastic” that is certified compostable. Read more here.
I have composted in my own compost bin.
Clipper teabags have dumped the cellophane though the teabags are still packed in plastic bags inside the box.
After which you will no longer want to use a conventional tea bag ever again. And you will have to be super rich to afford the cleaner greener alternatives even if you can find them in plastic free packaging. And please let me if you do.
So what to do when you want a nice cup of tea?
Loose leaves are the way forward. But how to steep them? If you are brewing up for the WI, a teapot is fine but what when you want a quick cuppa for one?
You can get cotton bags that you can use to make your own teabags but really who can be bothered with that kind of faff.
I have found that a steel mesh single cup infuser works perfectly. It sits on your mug, you fill it with loose tea, let the brew, brew then remove. Really no effort at all and very easy to empty into the compost bin after. Mine was given as a gift but I have found something similar on Amazon
The only alternative is loose tea. Initially this might seem like a lot of faff. First you will need to source some loose tea. There are tea merchants who specialize in fine teas. Health food shops also are good for a go.
You can find a list of tea and coffee merachants here.
You might want to take your own bags.
You can find a full list of loose tea merchants here. If you know of any please leave details in the comments.
Pots, Strainers & Balls to you Mrs!
Next you will need a teapot and, unless you fancy taking up fortune telling, something to stop the leaves getting in your cup. You can get great teapots from charity shops. I favor the stainless steel 70s version, good for traveling in the van with. You can get all metal tea strainers if you look. Try the market, Ebay or Amazon. I am not a big fan of tea strainers. They dribble and you need a saucer to put them on. And you have the icky job of removing the tea leaves from the pot afterwards, a soggy business at the best of times. No, I like these mesh balls. You put the tea in them then put them in the pot. At the end you empty them in the compost bin without worrying about nasty plastic mesh. Easy as! You can even get some teapots that have integrated diffusers built in.
If you take milk, you will need to get yourself a milk man who delivers milk in glass bottles and possibly a milk jug!
So now we are good to go. Put the leaves in the pot (or the mesh ball first) add boiling water and let it brew. Pour milk into a nice cup, pour tea, sit back and enjoy.
Being committed to local shopping I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source.
If you can’t buy local, please do check the links in the posts. They link direct to the suppliers. Do consider buying from them and support their online businesses.
If you can’t do that then I have put together and Amazon catalogue. Yes I know…
Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them. Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However these links are for 3rd party sellers, we have always found the Amazon service to be good and their packaging usually compostable. In the absence of anything else we feel we can recommend them.
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