I have always assumed that tea bags are made from paper and that the only plastic is found in the packaging. Not so. The majority of tea bags used in the UK (55 billion a year) are made by adding acrylic polymer emulsions to the plant based materials that the bags are made of and then applying a very thin layer of polypropylene to help heat-seal bags and sachets. I checked this by writing to PG Tips, Tetley’s, Typhoo, Twinings, Taylors and Clipper, all of whom replied with detailed information. You may not like the idea of potentially drinking plastic particles in your tea but also consider that this plastic material falls apart as the tea bag degrades and ends up in the soil and ultimately in the sea. This explains why I keep having to pick’ tea bag skeletons’ off my veggie patch! The damn things just won’t compost and now I know why.
I also contacted Bristol based PUKKA, an eco-friendly company who don’t use plastic in their tea bag production and use vegetable inks on their boxes which are not wrapped in a final outer layer of plastic. However, even Pukka use a polyethylene lamination in the production of the sachets. I was also really pleased to read that Teapigs’ temple tea bags are made from corn starch rather than nylon. They also tell me that their packaging is plastic-free too, thanks to a material called NatureFlex.
Our solution at home is to buy loose tea leaves in large paper bags directly from the local health food shop, at the Whole Foods Market, tea shops and indoor markets. We keep the tea leaves in traditional tins and it takes only marginally longer to brew a ‘real’ cuppa than using a tea bag. What’s the rush anyway?
Great blog entry from Treading My own Path: