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plastic free

Food & Drink, Kitchen Staples

The Teabags Without Plastic in 2021

Wanting to know which teabags without plastic exist in the UK in 2021? I’ve rounded up the best plastic-free teabags and shared the teabags with plastic.

Back in 2017, I wrote about the plastic in teabags. That post had such an impact as many people learned for the first time that teabags contain plastic, alongside a host of other surprising items that contain plastic

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of requests to update the article, so here we are today! I’ve looked into over 20 teabag brands in the UK, to see what teabags without plastic are available. I’ve also looked into how best to dispose of the bags once you’re done.

Why do teabags contain plastic?

You might be wondering why there is a need for plastic to be found in teabags?  Well, plastic (polypropylene to be exact) is added to the paper teabag to help heat seal them during manufacture. 

Heat sealing the bags like this means that the teabags won’t come open in the box, or in your cup.  It also means though that these tea bags aren’t 100% biodegradable.  This is a problem in that those tea bags you are composting are leaving bits of microplastic in the soil.

What Is Microplastic?

Microplastic is a huge problem, that is still being understood by scientists today. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, less than 5 mm long. What we know is that microplastics are found in the soil, in the sea, in our drinking water, inside fish and other animals we eat, and even in humans. When microplastics are in the food we eat and that water we drink, this means we are ingesting plastic, and the long-term effects of this are currently unknown.

Microplastic comes from a variety of sources. It can derive from larger plastic debris that has degraded into smaller and smaller pieces. However, it also comes from teabags that have been heat-sealed with plastic, that we have unwittingly composted.

How much damage can a teabag do, you may be wondering? Well, one teabag alone will do very little damage. However, when you consider that in the UK alone we drink more than 60 billion cups of tea a year, then it’s a lot of teabags and a whole lot more microplastic.

The good news is that since 2017 tea manufacturers have started to remove polypropylene from their teabags. Here is the current situation in the UK:

The Plastic Free Teabags in 2021

teabags without plastic uk

Here are the UK brands that produce plastic-free tea bags. In each case, I’m discussing the bags only, not the packaging.

Before we dive in, let me get you up to speed on some of the terminologies around teabags.

First off, you’ll see some discussion around types of teabags. Here is a visual guide to the types of teabags referred to in this guide.

types of teabags

In this guide to teabags without plastic, you’ll see a lot of discussion around PLA. PLA stands for Polylactic Acid. PLA teabags are technically not plastic-free, as they are made from plant-based plastics. It is often referred to as a bio-plastic. This simply means the plastic does not come from a fossil fuel-based source.

There are some issues around PLA. Firstly, sometimes the plant material used to produce PLA can be sourced from genetically modified (GM) crops.

Secondly, PLA tea bags are not home compostable. It’s therefore important to dispose of them correctly. If your local council collects your food waste or garden waste bin for industrial composting, they will compost quickly. However, if your council does not collect your food waste, then these teabags perform no differently than conventional oil-based plastic tea bags.

I don’t think PLA is a perfect solution. Like many aspects of sustainability, there are always compromises. However, aside from switching to loose leaf tea en masse, I don’t think there is a perfect solution that could also make tea an affordable daily staple.

Right, now we’re up to speed on all things tea, let’s dive in:

Bird & Blend Tea

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Brighton-based Bird & Blend sells their hand-blended teas in PLA teabags. Or if you want to avoid PLA you can shop for loose leaf tea. Alongside their standard black teas, where Bird & Blend excel is in their unique tea blends. Think Rhubarb & Custard, or Chocolate Digestive flavoured tea for something a little different.

Brew Tea

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

As well as their loose leaf tea selection, Brew Tea swapped over to PLA teabags in September 2017. They then started moving over to plastic-free packaging in 2018. Black tea is Brew Tea’s speciality, but they do carry a small range of fruit and herbal teas.

Clipper

Place in your food waste bin | String and tag teabags home compostable

Back in 2017 people were most shocked by the fact that Clipper’s unbleached organic teabags contained plastic. Thanks to consumer demand, Clipper took action, and switched their pillow teabags to a plant-based PLA over a year ago, sourced from non-GM plant material.  

Co-Op Own Brand 99

Place in your food waste bin

Thanks to consumer pressure, The Co-Op switched its own-brand Fairtrade 99 tea over to PLA teabags in 2018.

Eteaket

Place in your food waste bin | loose leaf tea selection

Edinburgh-based Eteaket mainly sells loose-leaf tea. This is packaged in home compostable Natureflex™ bags and cardboard caddies. Their tea is not the cheapest. However, if you already have a caddy, then their loose-leaf tea is also available in 100% plastic-free refill bags, which are a little cheaper.

Whilst their range of teabags is small, their tea bags are made from PLA. These are packed into home compostable Natureflex™ bags, and recyclable cardboard cartons for a lighter carbon footprint.

Good & Proper

Place in your food waste bin |Loose leaf tea selection

Good & Proper’s range of award-winning teas – from their black teas to their range of herbal infusions – come in PLA teabags. If you want to avoid PLA, you can also shop their wide range of tasty loose leaf teas.

Hampstead Tea

Home compostable or can go in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Hampstead Tea has a long history of sustainability. They were the first tea manufacturer to introduce stitched teabags rather than heat-sealed teabags. As such, their teabags have always been home compostable. Rather than resting on their laurels, Hampstead Tea has taken big steps when it comes to the environment. Consequently, the vast majority of their products are plastic-free (aside from their Earl Grey and Green Tea with Jasmine tea bag envelopes).

Neal’s Yard

Home compostable or can go in your food waste bin

Neal’s Yard 100% organic tea bags are FairWild™ certified. This is an international standard that supports the sustainable use of wild-harvested ingredients. It also ensures a fair deal all along the supply chain.

Their PLA-free teabags are made from natural abaca (a plant from the banana family) and are oxygen bleached. This method is chlorine-free and kind to the environment. As such these plastic-free teabags can go straight into your home composter.

Nemi

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Nemi is a specialist London-based tea company that offers a variety of tea blends, both as loose tea and teabags. As well as selling great-tasting tea, they provide employment to refugees to give them local work experience and job readiness skills to enter the UK workforce and to help them integrate into broader society.

All of their teabags are made from PLA. What’s more, their packaging is compostable, and their teas are organic, fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified. Their packaging is pretty funky too.

PG Tips

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Unilever-owned PG Tips made the switch to PLA a couple of years ago thanks to consumer pressure. Now their entire range can be industrially composted via your food waste bin.

Pukka

Home compostable or can go in your food waste bin

Unilever-owned Pukka makes organic and fairly sourced herbal teas. Their string and tag teabags have always been plastic and PLA-free. However, each individual bag used to come wrapped in an unrecyclable plastic-lined envelope. The good news is that Pukka has taken their environmental responsibilities seriously, and now use widely recyclable envelopes.   

Roqberry

Place in your food waste bin

Roqberry’s flavourful fruit and herbal infusions come in PLA plastic-based pyramids. From banana flavoured tea to blueberry, their unique tea blends tread lightly on the planet.

Sainsbury’s

Place in your food waste bin

I added Sainsbury’s to this plastic-free teabag list in August 2021. After news that from summer 2021 Sainsbury’s own-brand teabags will be plastic-free, as part of its ongoing commitment to halve plastic packaging by 2025, this finally rolled out in-store in August 2021. The new tea bags are made from PLA and are industrially compostable. What I also like is that the packaging is completely plastic-free too. The box isn’t wrapped in plastic, and nor is there a plastic foil bag inside the box. Accessible plastic-free tea for the win!

Suki Tea

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Based in Belfast, Suki Tea ethically source and blend loose leaf teas, herbal infusions and fruit blends from all over the world. They are best known for their tasty loose leaf tea, however, they do have a selection of PLA-based pyramid teabags.

T2

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Australian brand T2 reached the UK in 2014 and has quite a few High St stores dotted around the UK. Again, T2 is perhaps best known for its loose-leaf tea selection. However, its range of pyramid teabags is made from PLA for a more sustainable cup of tea.

Teapigs

Place in your food waste bin

Sustainable tea stalwarts Teapigs have always made teabags without the fossil fuel-based plastic – their tasty tea pyramids have always been PLA-based. However, Teapigs didn’t stop there. A few years ago they also switched the plastic inner bag to a home compostable bag. Top plastic-free marks!

Teatulia

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Teatulia, an organic tea brand from Bangladesh, is a new brand to me, but I like what I see.

All their tea is grown at the Teatulia garden in the north of Bangladesh. Here more than 3,500 mainly female employees grow tea and herbs according to low-intensity natural and organic farming methods. Staff are also paid good wages and provided with healthcare and education. 

Teatulia does have a wide selection of loose leaf teas, and their tea bags are made of PLA.

Twist Teas

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

Twist Tea’s range of fruit, herbal and black teas are available in loose-leaf and PLA pyramid teabag formats.

Yorkshire Tea

Place in your food waste bin | Loose leaf tea selection

I’ve included Yorkshire Tea on this plastic-free list as they are currently rolling out their line of PLA teabags. They updated in April 2021 that:

About half of our UK Yorkshire teabags are now plant-based. That’s all the boxes in sizes 40, 160, and 240, and it applies to normal Yorkshire Tea as well as Yorkshire Gold, Yorkshire Tea Decaf, and Yorkshire Tea for Hard Water. Boxes of 210 are close behind and by the summer (2021) our boxes of 80 tea bags should all be plant-based too.

Which Teabags Do Contain Plastic?

As of August 2021, many teabags from big-name brands still contain plastic. These include the following brands.

Aldi

Aldi’s Specially Selected Infusion tea bags are made from PLA. However, the remainder of Aldi’s teabags are heat-sealed using polypropylene plastic. In 2018 Aldi said they were looking into plastic-free alternatives across the rest of its own-brand tea range. Finally, in June 2021, Aldi confirmed they are removing single-use plastic from their own-brand range of teabags. This is scheduled to happen by the end of 2021. I’ll update this post when this change comes into effect.

Lidl

Lidl’s pyramid teabags are made from PLA, making them industrially compostable. However, like Aldi, the rest of their range of teabags are sealed using polypropylene. I can’t find any details to say that they looking to switch to more sustainable options, which is disappointing.

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer’s non-herbal range of tea bags still contains plastic.

In January 2021 Marks & Spencer told me over Twitter that “we changed our pyramid herbal teabags to a plant-based material at the end of 2019. These can be disposed of in food waste bins collected by local councils. We’re continuing to explore more sustainable options for our other tea bag ranges in the future”.

This non-committal action on plastic in the rest of their range of teabags is in contrast to an M&S press release issued in 2018. Here, Marks & Spencer said they were taking a “razor-sharp look at how we use plastics” and that “we’re taking plastics out of all 450 million teabags we sell“. It’s disappointing that three years later that ‘razor-sharp look‘ translates to a woolly ‘we’re continuing to explore… in the future‘.

As such, until their black tea is plastic-free I don’t class M&S as a plastic-free purveyor of tea.

Tetley

Currently, Tetley teabags contain plastic. However, their goal is to produce tea bags made from PLA. Trials have been run, where 3 million PLA teabags were produced and sold, to see if bag splitting would be an issue. The results were positive, so Tetley is now looking to roll out their plastic-free bags. However, no date has been given for this yet. I’ll update this blog post as and when their range launches.

Twinings

I’ve put Twinings in the plastic category, rather than the plastic-free category because I consider them a work in progress.

I tweeted Twinings to ask about the plastic in their tea in January 2021 and they told me “More than two-thirds of our products are loose-leaf or made using plant-based teabags & we’re working on switching the rest of our bags to a plant-based design. This will be completed in the next 6 months; find out more here“. Once they’ve switched I’ll update this article. I’ve heard nothing more as of August 2021.

To Conclude The Plastic-Free Teabag Conversation

Many teabag manufacturers have made the switch to more planet-friendly teabags. However, it’s clear that some of the big players, like M&S and Lidl still have some way to go before all of the big tea bag brands are plastic-free.

If your tea manufacturer of choice isn’t mentioned here, then do email or tweet them to ask about their teabags.

Whilst PLA is not an environmental panacea if disposed of correctly, it is better for the planet than fossil fuel-based plastic methods of sealing teabags. Therefore, it’s vitally important they are disposed of properly. If you don’t have access to council food waste collections, then your best course of action would be to tear open the bag to allow you to compost the tea leaves. You would then put the teabag in with your general waste.

Phew, that was a long one! Time to put the kettle on for a plastic-free cuppa I think! If you’ve enjoyed this, then do also check out my guide to the best oat milk. I’ve looked into all sorts of ethics behind the most popular oat milk brands in the UK and uncovered all sorts of murky things.

Arts & Crafts, Life & Style

10 Easy Zero-Waste Christmas Decorations to DIY

Today I’m sharing with you ten easy yet effective plastic-free and zero-waste Christmas decorations for you to make this festive season, to enjoy year after year.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, and still impacting our lives, many of us are compensating by decking the halls like never before this Christmas to bring a little extra sparkle to our lives.

If you’re also looking to decorate your home a little more, then perhaps some of these zero-waste Christmas decorations, made from natural and compostable materials, will be up your street. Retailers may have finally started to realise we want a less plastic Christmas, but the good news is you don’t have to buy anything new as with a lot of these crafts it’s a case of using what you already have to hand.

Before I begin, please, don’t bin your existing decorations just because they’re made of plastic. Remember, as with most items, the most eco-friendly Christmas decorations are the ones you already own. Re-using what we already have is the absolute pinnacle of zero-waste. So, if you’ve got reams of tinsel and plastic baubles galore from Christmases gone by, then decorate using them with abandon! I’ve got plastic baubles on my Christmas tree from when I was a kid, and they bring me SO much joy. I’m hoping that one day they might bring my kids joy too.

The Zero-Waste Christmas Decorations to DIY

Disclaimer over, let’s move on to the decorations! Here are 10 of my favourite eco-friendly Christmas decorations to make:

Dried Orange Garland

10 zero-waste Christmas decorations made using natural and compostable materials.

Dried orange slices are pure Instagram catnip, and for good reason – they are stunningly effective. The good news is that if you want your house to look and smell amazing for Christmas, then these garlands are so easy to make. Follow House of Jade Interiors for the full tutorial.

A word of advice. Reserve the dried oranges for indoor decorations only. What I’ve found is that if you use them on outdoor decorations the oranges rehydrate and start to rot. However, if you keep them indoors, and then after Christmas store them in an airtight container, such as a jar or old Tupperware box, then you can use your dried oranges year after year.

Zero-Waste Salt Dough Stars Christmas Decorations

Homemade Salt dough decorations

Salt dough ornaments aren’t just for kids, although you can certainly get your kids involved in making them.

This simple yet stylish Christmas scented salt dough garland can be made by following Rocky Hedge Farm’s easy tutorial. If you have any stars leftover, individual stars would also look amazing hanging on your tree or used in your gift wrapping.

As before, it’s best to use salt dough decorations for indoor decor only. And when you take your decorations down it’s best to store salt dough ornaments in an airtight container. Again, if exposed to moisture they can go damp and rot in storage.

Crochet Stars

Crochet stars pattern for a zero-waste Christmas

If you are a keen crocheter, then this one’s for you. If you have any odds and ends of wool leftover from other projects, then try making these beautiful crochet stars. Hang them on your Christmas tree as baubles, string them up in a garland, use them instead of bows on Christmas gifts… The possibilities are endless! The free pattern is available from Persia Lou.

Origami Star Garland

Fun eco-friendly Christmas crafts to try

If you have a collection of paper – perhaps saved from deliveries and old wrapping paper – then this plastic-free origami stars tutorial from Girl About Townhouse is an easy one to follow. All you need is paper, string, and a craft knife. You’ll be seeing stars in no time! Alternatively, this tutorial would be a great one for slightly older kids to follow. Pop a Christmas movie on and they’ll be busy for hours!

Zero-Waste Foliage Candle Holders Christmas Table Decorations

10 Christmas decorations made using natural and compostable materials.

I love the complete and utter simplicity of these festive candle holders from Traumzuhause. Note the post is written in German, so use an online translation service if your German isn’t up to scratch or non-existent! However, the good thing is this craft is incredibly simple to put together. If you’ve got some empty wine bottles and some greenery then voila, an instant zero-waste Christmas decoration for your dining table. Snippings from your Christmas tree would work, as would some ivy, rosemary, or eucalyptus. Skill level zero. My kind of Christmas craft!

Paper Bag Stars

10 Christmas decorations made using natural and compostable materials.

Got a bunch of paper bags that you are never going to use? Make these beautiful zero-waste paper bag stars with this tutorial from The Merry Thought. I would add that if you secure the final bag with a paperclip or two, instead of gluing it, then you will be able to fold your star flat and reuse your stars year after year after year.

Orange Peel Garland

Zero-waste Christmas craft ideas
Image by Laura Pashby

This sweet and simple orange peel garland is a great plastic-free craft idea. The original post that I linked to no longer exists, but try this tutorial from Lovilee instead. Save up your orange peels, and then drape your garlands on your Christmas tree, on your mantlepiece, or dangle them from your window for a lovely scented zero-waste decoration. Just remember the rules for dried fruit so that you can re-use these pretty decorations year after year.

Popcorn & Cranberry Garland

Eco-friendly Christmas crafts

If you want an easy zero-waste Christmas decoration, then try this Cranberry and popcorn garland from Mountain Cravings. That is if you don’t eat all the popcorn first! Again, this could be a great one for slightly older kids to get involved in.

An important note. Although this garland is pictured outdoors, I personally wouldn’t use this garland outdoors, as you’ll attract a host of wildlife. This is no bad thing in itself, but it’s important to bear in mind that popcorn fills birds up with little nutritional benefit, at a time of year when they should be eating fat and protein-rich foods to be able to survive the winter. Save it for decorating your Christmas tree in a low waste way, or for stringing up on your stairs or walls.

Pinecone Garland

Sustainable Christmas decorations to make, using natural and compostable materials

This pine cone garland from Decor Adventures is another great decoration that can be used year after year. I personally would omit the glitter, as regular glitter is a microplastic. What’s more, it turns out even the stuff labelled as eco-friendly glitter is not great for the environment. However, even without the sparkles, this plastic-free garland will still look great on your mantlepiece this festive season. You’ll also have great fun foraging for pinecones on a bracing winter’s walk.

Zero-Waste Rosemary Wreath Christmas Decoration

Eco-friendly Christmas decorations to DIY

Finally, this mini wreath garland from The Merry Thought is another easy zero-waste make for the festive season that is eye-catching and incredibly effective. Make it using rosemary, and it will fill your home with a lovely scent.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I’m off to get busy with some plastic-free crafting!

If you have any other zero-waste Christmas decorations ideas, then please do share with the Moral Fibres community in the comments below. I’d love to hear!

And if you aren’t a crafty person, then do check out my guide to eco-friendly and ethical Christmas decorations for heaps of planet and people-friendly decorations. And here’s my guide to the most sustainable and eco-friendly Christmas trees.