Well, it wasn’t until recently, I found out that my favourite teabag actually contained PLASTIC! After a busy term at University my eldest daughter, who is studying geography and the environment, came home and told me about the environmental impact of teabags. I was horrified and completely astounded that all my efforts at recycling my teabags, eating organic and going greener was not as successful as it could’ve been due to the contamination from my mere teabags over the years, adding to soil pollution and ultimately adding to our internal toxicity.
It’s surprising how plastic seems to be infiltrating our whole home in guises that we would never assume would be a toxic hazard. In recent years, we’ve heard many organisations condemning meat production, antibiotics, one-use plastics, but teabags haven’t been cited at all.
The UK is known worldwide for it’s tea drinking consumption, and as I write this blog at 1620 on a wet December evening, the UK Tea & Infusions Association estimate that in the UK we’ve made 68,122,948 cups of tea – that’s a lot of tea and teabags. On average the UK consume 60.2 billion cups of tea each year and most of us, around 96% choose to use teabags rather than tea leaves.
As we go through peri-menopause through to our post menopausal years it is so important to realise the impact plastic and other pollutants can have on our hormone system. Making sure we make the right choices can help reduce our internal toxicity and help our body to stay strong, resilient and less inflamed. A mainly anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet is really beneficial for our health and so it choosing the right teabags it seems.
So which teabag brands are plastic free and which brands contain plastics?
Interestingly, many of the family favourites bought today contain a substance called polypropylene, which is a sealing plastic, to keep the tea bags from falling apart. Unfortunately although it works very well it also means that they are unable to decompose completely and therefore not recyclable. So, even when we put it into our food waste or compost heap it can lead to plastic pollution ☹
In summary, here are the 2 main problems of using teabags:
• Paper teabags are sealed with a plastic glue that makes them non-recyclable or biodegradable
• Plastic teabags are actually made out of plastic not paper and begin to breakdown when put into hot water
Unfortunately, that not the only issue either, recent research from McGill University in Canada also found that some types of teabag leak millions of plastic particles into our drinks too, not only from the plastic sealing but also from the bag itself ☹
The plastic teabags are more often linked to the higher end brands and scientists who published their findings in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology found that one plastic teabag releases around 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 bollion smaller nanoplastic particles into 1 cup. That’s a little too much plastic for my liking, don’t you think?
There is some good news out there though for tea lovers. Many companies have ditched the plastic and are able to offer great alternative teabags that make a wonderful cuppa, are good for our health and good for the environment.
I noticed the other day that Abel & Cole, a delivery service of organic food and drink are able to supply a completely plastic-free teabag, instead they are made using SoilOn and sealed using heat instead of plastic. The teabags themselves are completely biodegradable and so is the packaging they come in. Having looked at their website, they say that SoilOn is a corn-starch which incorporates biomass material (polylactic acid) originating from plants. The best bit is that it is biodegradable and certified by The Soil Association and certified organic ☺ I personally buy and use the Clipper or Waitrose Duchy range, both offer a great cup of tea but without the nasties!
Another well known brand called Clipper announced in 2018 that they had created what they believe to be the first ever completely plastic-free teabag made only using natural plant based materials enabling you to make your cuppa and pop the teabag into the food waste bin or throw on your compost heap.
So which teabags are the offenders? Here is a list of those teabags with plastic (please not that this information may have changed since publication and is based on my own research)
• PG Tips
• Twinings – heat sealed and string & tag) ranges
• Yorkshire Tea
• Lidl own brand
Teabags without plastic
• Waitrose Duchy range
• Co-op own brand 99
• Pukka Herbs
• Twinings pyramid range
• Abel & Cole