Cuppa Plastic? Time to Rethink Tea
Most of us would probably assume that our teabags are made from paper but thanks to a clip of the BBC Two documentary ‘Inside the Factory’, that went viral last summer, many of us suddenly became aware that Britain’s favourite brew has a rather nasty secret ingredient.
It turns out that teabags aren’t as harmless as we would like to think and it’s all down to plastic. Some teabags from Britain’s top brands can contain as much as 25% plastic. This is due to the fact that many teabags are heat-sealed with polypropylene.
According to the UK Tea and Infusions Association, 96% of the 60.2 billion cups of tea that us Brits drink each year are brewed with a teabag. As well as not being very good for our health, due to the fact that plastic is known to break down and leach toxins when exposed to extreme heat sources (like boiling water), it also means that any avid composters out there have been unknowingly throwing plastic out into their gardens for years.
However, all is not lost and you don’t necessarily have to give up your daily brew in order to avoid plastic. Thanks to the massive uproar that followed the viral clip last summer, many producers have vowed to eliminate or reduce the plastic used in the production of their teabags. Co-op is working with its tea supplier Typhoo and sustainable fibre specialist Ahlstrom-Munksjö to develop a plastic-free teabag that it aims to have on shelves later this year. There’s also a petition you can sign addressed to the CEO of PG Tips & Unilever urging him to remove plastic from teabags.
There are several companies that already sell plastic-free teabags including Teapigs and Pukka (although Pukka’s bags come individually wrapped in plastic-laminated sachets - they are working towards developing a sustainable alternative to this).
Another option is to buy loose-leaf tea instead of teabags and brew it using a specialised teapot or infuser. Many packets of loose leaf tea in the shops will have plastic packaging to try and keep it fresh but you could ask if your local tea shop, health food shop or market would allow you to use a reusable tin or paper bag to take your tea home in.