Is there plastic in your tea bags

Is There Plastic In Your Tea?

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Is there anything better than a nice cup of tea?  Even the very word itself is soothing and comforting – like a hug when you need one most.  A steaming hot mug of tea is the first thing I reach for in the morning, and quite often a herbal tea is one of the things I reach for last thing at night.  I measure my days based on my tea consumption – a good day if I’ve had plenty cups, and a bad day if tea has been in scarce supply.  In short, there are few things I love more than tea.

What is your beloved cup of tea is hiding a dark secret?  Well, I’m afraid to be the harbinger of doom, but much like the animal fat in £5 notes scandal, there is a bad side to your benign cup of tea, and that is plastic.  Not just the plastic wrapper on the box, or the plastic pouch some teas come in, but plastic actually in the teabag itself.

Let that sink in a moment – there is plastic in the teabag.

You might be wondering why there is a need for plastic to be found in teabags?  Well, plastic (polypropylene to be exact) is apparently added to the paper teabag to help heat seal them during manufacture so they don’t come open in the box, or in your cup.  It also means though that these tea bags aren’t 100% biodegradable, which is a bit of problem.

As a lot of the information stems from 2010, I wanted to get an up-to-date overview of the tea industry in 2017.   I donned my investigative cap and emailed a few tea makers to see if they could confirm whether they still use polypropylene in their teabags and to see which tea bags are plastic free.  Here’s what they said:

plastic in tea bags

Teapigs got back to me first (within minutes) to let me know that all of their teabags are made from a by-product of corn starch known as Soilon.  The box that they are sold in does appear to contain some plastic though, so if that is an issue then this may not be your solution.

Taylors of Harrogate (who also make Yorkshire Tea and Betty’s Tea) say that “we can confirm that we are working with our supplier of teabag paper to develop a paper that is 100% plant-based, but right now our tea bags do contain polypropylene as part of the fibres“.

Twinings have several different types of teabags available on the market.  They say that “our standard teabags, used for Earl Grey and English Breakfast, to name a couple, and many of our infusions and Green teas are produced from a natural plant based cellulose material and contain no plastic in the fibres. However, these teabags are “heat sealed” tea bags, and so the paper also has a very thin film of polypropylene, a plastic, which enables the two layers of the tea bags to be sealed together“.

Meanwhile their ‘string and tag with sachet’ tea bags, also contain a thin layer of plastic polyethylene to help seal up the sachets.  The only Twinings product that doesn’t contain any plastic is their pyramid teabag range – whereby the material is derived from maize starch and is fully biodegradable and compostable.  Rather annoyingly though, many of their pyramid tea bags seem to come in plastic bags rather than boxes.

Pukka Tea told me their teabags do not contain polypropylene or any other plastic – their teabag is sewn shut by machine with cotton thread.  They even went on to say their teabag paper is made of a blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres, and their supply of tea bag paper is also Totally Chlorine Free and unbleached.  They are staple-free and 100% biodegradable and/or recyclable. The tea bag strings are made from 100% organic, non-GMO, un-bleached cotton.  Each teabag is individually packaged though (possibly in plastic), so the one downside is that there is a bit of waste from one box of tea .

PG Tips say their “teabags are made with 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: this is needed to create a seal to keep the tea leaves inside the bag“.  However, they didn’t have the information to state whether or not this was polypropylene.

Tetley also say their round and square teabags are made with 80% paper fibre, and 20% thermoplastic.  Their string & tag teabags are plastic free- but are used mostly in their catering range for individually wrapped tea bags.  They have said that “Tata Global Beverages has ongoing continuous improvement and environmental awareness.  We are working towards more sustainable and biodegradable solutions for all our products”.  They also advised that ripping ripping the bag and dispersing the contents should help the composting process.

Typhoo, and Clipper have so far declined to comment.  I’ll update as and when they do.

So whilst Teapigs, Pukka Tea, Twinings Pyramid tea bags and Tetley’s catering range are plastic free, in pretty much all cases the packaging is not.  The teas are also on the more expensive side.  I find these types of tea are nice for a treat, but may be a little pricey to enjoy as your everyday cup of tea.  Especially if you have a prolific tea habit.

If you are keen to enjoy your tea without the added plastic the other option is to switch to loose leaf tea.  I’ve been hunting down some handy accessories that might come in handy if you choose to do so:

Plastic Free Tea Alternatives

Reusable Tea Bags (£7.98 for 5) (or make your own)

Tea Ball Infuser (£3.25)

A pretty fairtrade mug (£9.95)

A cheery teapot (£24.95) with infuser basket so no need for additional tools or tea leaves floating in your tea.

What’s your favourite loose leaf tea?  Is there a 100% plastic free loose leaf tea?  I’ve found some sold in a paper bag but it does have a sticky label on it which I suspect isn’t plastic free.  I’d be keen to hear your finds!


purple clematis

Ten Things

purple clematis

Aah, election week.  Elections always make me anxious.  How did you cope with it all?  Me?  Stress eating chocolate and stress drinking gin.  When not doing either of the above I tried to keep my mind off things by painting my shed, and having cosy days indoors playing with my daughters whilst we dodged torrential rain showers.  I also whipped up a batch of granola just for good measure.

My littlest has been sick for the last couple of days so I haven’t had much opportunity to process the results, but I am currently wondering how a coalition with the DUP can possibly work, and how long Theresa May can last as Prime Minister.  What do you think?  I’m giving it until October, but would be surprised if we make it that far.

What I found amazing about the election was the percentage of 18-24’s who turned out to vote – some estimate it’s as high as 72%.  Way to go!  I was also buoyed by the lessening of the influence of the right wing media on voters, despite their bottom of the barrel campaign of hate against the left.

Anyway, I am sure you are all General Electioned out by now!  Here are this week’s links:

1.  How’s this for positivity and global action?  The mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris have their own climate deal.  More of this please.

2.  Also, could Trump have inadvertently renewed people’s interest in climate change?  See here also.  I sincerely hope so!

3.  France did this – offering grants of up to 1.5 million Euro for climate scientists to move there – and I just want to shake Macron’s hand.  Maybe give him a little hug…

4. Did you know that Sweden offers tax breaks for people to fix their broken belongings?

5. Could the made in China label on your clothes be a by-word for ethical and sustainable?

6.  Why won’t the right admit climate change is real?

7.  The best climate change graph I’ve ever seen.  We need to make data more relevant to our lives in this way to make people take notice.

8.  The perfect summer salad.

9.  This Australian clinic for orphaned bats was just the thing to cheer me up.  I’m hard pressed to think of anything cuter.

10.  There’s still time to enter the Seventh Generation giveaway!


And finally, three things from the Moral Fibres archives you might have missed:

It’s elderflower season.  Go go go!

A handy vegetable growing cheat sheet.

A buyerarchy of needs (with apologies to Maslow).


Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone, and see you next week!