With the millions of cups of tea Brits drink each day, it's no surprise that a lot of waste ends up in landfill.
Thankfully, there's been an ongoing movement towards more plastic-free packaging, with many brands eliminating or reducing their reliance on plastic for a more sustainable product.
One popular material for plastic-free teabags is corn starch treated to create poly-lactic acid (PLA). This type of plastic can be heat sealed, but it's only biodegradable at specific conditions, so it needs to be composted in an industrial composting facility.
What’s the material?
Pukka tea bags are made from a blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres, sealed with a thread of organic cotton. They are fully compostable and biodegradable.
Some companies use a non-woven material called Fiber+ to make their tea bags which is based on renewable raw materials and is certified by DIN CERTCO for its quality. Other companies use bio-plastics like polylactic acid or polypropylene.
If you’re unsure about what the material is used for your tea bag, check out the fine print. These are usually printed on the back of the packaging and should tell you what’s inside.
Most square or round heat-seal tea bags contain a small amount of polypropylene fibres to ensure they’re strong enough to hold the lea leaves in. However, some brands are running production trials with a new non-plastic alternative.
Are they compostable?
There are a lot of tea brands that use polypropylene to seal their paper bags and pla bags, which makes them non-compostable. This isn’t an issue if you use the bag in your home compost bin, but it can be a problem if you put it into a curbside bin.
Many of these paper tea bags also contain microplastics. These tiny particles are less than 5 mm long and they can contaminate soils, plants and waterways.
The good news is that there are some great brands that don’t use any plastic. Thankfully, they’re easy to find!
Pukka: These tea bags are made from unbleached paper and do not need any polypropylene to seal them. They also have a card outer box that uses clever folding and cotton thread to ensure there’s no plastic on them.
Pukka Teas Organic Relax is a deeply soothing herbal tea blend with chamomile flowers, oat flowering tops, fennel seed and marshmallow root. This blend will help you take a moment of stillness to recharge your batteries and relax.
Are they recyclable?
Some tea bags, especially from larger manufacturers, have a very small amount of plastic in them. This is typically used to seal up the Tea Compost Bag and prevent it from falling apart when the liquid inside is heated.
However, this small amount of polypropylene has a negative effect on the environment and can have a detrimental impact on our bodies’ endocrine system. It can also leach into the ground and cause harm to our soil, water and marine life.
So if you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative, it’s important to choose ones that are biodegradable or compostable.
A few brands, such as Clipper, use a blend of unbleached paper with cellulose binder and a biodegradable non-GMO bio-polymer. Other brands, such as Harney & Sons and Twinings, use Manila hemp cellulose and thermoplastic fibers.
In addition, most brands use a biodegradable and compostable plant-based material called polylactic acid (PLA). However, this type of plastic requires heat to break down, which is not compatible with home composting methods.
Are they biodegradable?
Pukka teas are organic, sourced from farmers that share their Ayurvedic philosophy, and who scour the globe for natural herbs rich in oils. Their thoughtful range of herbal teas and powerful natural lattes will help you find balance in your body, mind and spirit.
Unlike paper tea compostable bags, plastic-lined tea bags can't completely decompose in the compost bin. When we dispose of them, they can end up in landfills, scaring local ecosystems and releasing dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Rather than use plastic, many brands and supermarkets are using biodegradable polylactic acid to seal their tea bags. This is a plant-based material that isn't a perfect solution, but it's better than the plastic it replaces, polypropylene.