Francesca Chalk red coffeee cup hand screen print

TEA BAGS ARE MADE FROM PAPER – AREN’T THEY?

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 Pigtea‘s temple tea bags are made from corn starch rather than nylon.

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?

READ MORE:

The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jul/02/teabags-biodegradeable

The Telegraph
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/7865706/Tear-your-tea-bags-before-composting-watchdog-says.html

Great blog entry from Treading My own Path:

The Scandalous Plastic in Tea Bags – Who Knew?

 

8 thoughts on “TEA BAGS ARE MADE FROM PAPER – AREN’T THEY?

  1. Mario

    Nice one Claudi. I have visited a couple of tea factories in Sri Lanka and they are always evangelising to visitors not to drink tea bags, as the quality of tea sold as loose leaf is far superior to the ‘dust’ that is used in tea bags (just look in the bottom of your tea bag tin if you have one!). I now know what I want for Christmas: a really nice tea pot!

    Reply
  2. Anni

    Thank you Claudi, I didn’t know about plastic in teabags – and about the existence of tea capsules. It’ s so absurd!! I somehow assumed, loose tea is best, now I know why…

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Does it remind you of how we always used to make fresh tea when we were teenagers? It was a pleasurable ritual and always involved a ‘Stoeffchen’ and incense, didn’t it? The art of living!

      Reply
    1. admin Post author

      That’s great Ally. I do the same and I find it such a pleasure discovering good quality tea in specialist shops. I’ve also started collecting flower heads this summer, like yarrow and chamomile for example. I am beginning to really appreciate these lovely natural teas!

      Reply
  3. Josh

    Thanks for the article – I’ve just been watching this on a ‘how it’s made’ TV show. Do you know of any supermarket brands that don’t use plastic? Not happy that I’ve been drinking these!

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I don’t know of any supermarket bought brands that don’t use plastic unfortunately. That’s why I have switched completely to using loose tea only. Even that is not easy to find without plastic. I order big paper bags of regular tea through my health food shop. If I am in a big city with a good tea shop, they usually will supply in paper bags if asked.

      Reply

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