Saturday, January 13, 2018

Zero Waste Tea- Because who wants to drink tea with plastic?


I used to be a Yorkshire Tea girl. That is until I found out that it has plastic in it. This is not unique to just this brand but most commercially available teas (even those which are marketed as healthy!). How can you have plastic in a tea bag you may ask? Surely, it is just a paper tea bag? I thought that the humble tea bag was safe from the plastic invasion but I was wrong. Polypropylene which is plastic is actually used to seal some of the tea bags at the seams. So that means that you drink a little bit of plastic every time you sit down for a cup of tea- which for me is about 8 times a day.
My friend mentioned that his parents couldn’t properly compost tea bags and that that there was a residue which was left in the garden from a year old composted tea. I didn’t believe (or rather want to believe it) and so I did a bit of research. And the results were horrifying. I learned that most of the tea bags contain plastic which seals the tea bags so that it doesn't open in your cup.  If you manage to find a plastic-free tea, chances are that the box has plastic in it.

I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth and so I have emailed Taylors who own Yorkshire Tea and this is what they said:

‘’Thank you for getting in touch and yes our tea bag does contain a small amount of plastic which is we believe typical of the market. It’s a component of the material that allows us to heat seal the bag and ensure that the tea remains within the tea bag when it comes into contact with water.

We are actively developing plant-based, fully biodegradable alternatives with our supply partners. We are committed to bringing these changes to market as soon as we can and as an ethically driven business it is a key priority for us. Please do visit the links below that will share some of what we are doing as we move towards carbon neutral status by 2020.’’

This was really quite tough to swallow! (Literally). I love drinking tea and a brew for me is a chance to have a moment to myself. I looked at other tea brands which are usually served in coffee shops and most of them have plastic in it in some capacity. 

Teas containing plastic: Tetley, PG Tips, Twinnings, Clipper and Typhoo, Yorkshire Tea

Plastic Free Tea- Pukka Tea - No Plastic but each tea bag is wrapped in an individual wrapper which is not recyclable according to their website. 

Tea Pig's tea pyramids are made from corn starch which is biodegradable but not compostable due to the length of time which this would take. I am a little bit sceptical as surely a tea bag should not take that long to decompose?! They recommend that you get rid of them with your food waste which is fine for me as I have this available but what about those people whose council don’t have this capacity just yet? I like their transparency however about all of the materials. More companies should have the full breakdown of where you can recycle all of the components in order to make your life easier, so they definitely have a kudos for that effort.  They have pledged to now use a new material instead of plastic packaging but this is not quite in place yet and so for now, I struggled to find tea bags which fit zero waste criteria. 

I really couldn’t go back to buying commercial brands after I learned all of that so I was looking for a solution.  It seemed like a hard work to try and sift through different brands when there is an easier solution. Package free Tea. Yep, just like with Coffee, I can buy tea in bulk. In my local tea and coffee shop- Pollards, they have so many different varieties that you can choose from, that you would need ages to try them all!

                               So many different varieties to choose from! 

The tea actually tastes a lot fresher and is often better quality than the one you buy in packaging. When I go shopping, I ask the lady who works in the shop to put it in my glass jar which she weighs beforehand. When I get home, I don’t even need to do anything with it, it just sits in the airtight jar on my kitchen shelf.

When I want to make a brew, I use my tea-iere to make it. Depending on the tea, I use one teaspoon and let it brew according to instructions that I receive when buying the tea. I am currently loving Darjeeling and Earl Grey although you will always find some English breakfast in the cupboard. This way I can get my tea just as I like it but knowing the the leaves which will be composted afterwards will not pollute my ground with microplastics, not to mention that I will not be drinking traces of plastic glue every day.

                   My current favourites - Earl Grey, Darjeeling and Green Tea 

There needs to be a shift in big companies towards more zero waste practices. I appreciate that these things take time and companies like Tea Pigs do pledge and work towards better environmental practices but the change needs to be faster. I think it is hard sometimes to navigate through packaging and recyclability of the materials, so when there is a Zero Waste solution, I will opt for that, because really, Zero Waste is about simplifying your life in the process.  It might not always be convenient, and I do think that there is a space for a tea bag, but one that comes in 100% recyclable packaging with 0% plastic in it. Until then, loose tea it is. I spoke about changes which are hard. This is definitely one of them. On the other hand, if you can’t even have a brew without some plastic in it, then this shows a serious issue.

                                                            No plastic in this tea! 

As you start to look into the plastic pollution, you may just discover that it found its way to your favourite products and it will be hard to change them. But sometimes, only that can influence a change. So I am sorry Yorkshire tea, as much as I once loved you, until you will come up with a no plastic solution in your tea bags, we are going to have to go separate ways as we have irreconcilable differences.


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3 comments

  1. I am old enough to remember proper tea, brewed in the teapot with a cover over it called a tea cosy. Then poured through the strainer and it was yummy. Going back to that after reading your article and passing your info onto family and friends. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Ettaariane, I love a good tea cosy too! The hand knitted ones are the best :)

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