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A nice cup of tea, with or without plastic?

Jan 22

Written by:
22/01/2018 11:55  RssIcon

Almost every tea bag sold in the UK now contains plastic.


The population of Britain drinks 165 million cuppas a day: that’s two and a half per person.

Sadly though almost every tea bag sold in the UK contains plastic. It is not just in the packaging around the bags and box, but in the tea bags themselves. Which means that our tea addiction is threatening the environment, particularly the oceans. 


Plastic now poses a global risk, choking animals and their habitats. Most of it ends up in the sea, where it breaks down into tiny pieces. By 2050 it is estimated that there will be more pieces of plastic than fish in the sea. These clog up marine organisms’ intestinal tracts, suppress their hunger by making them feel full, and cause infertility. Even coral reefs can ingest it.

The addition on non-biodegradable plastic also means that tea bags will no longer completely break down on our compost heaps.


Previously made of just paper or muslin

Tea bags used to be just made of muslin or paper. But in recent years companies have started using 20-30% polypropylene alongside paper fibre.

The UK’s biggest brands all admitted to using plastic polymers. PG Tips, Tetley’s, Yorkshire Tea, Taylors, Clipper, Co-op, Aldi, and Twinings are all among the offenders, according to the Moral Fibres blog.

Environmental activists say that this practice must end now.

A 38 Degrees petition is targetting Unilever, owner of the PG Tips brand, the best selling tea brand in the UK. Since September, the company now also owns Pukka Herbs, one of only a few brands to say that their bags were plastic free.

Now campaigners are demanding that the rest of the company follow suit. Mark Armitage, who founded the campaign stated, “As a market leader and the recent purchaser of Pukka teas, Unilever could help make a positive difference to the environment by removing plastic now.”

“Some bags contain up to 25% non-biodegradable polypropylene, which the manufacturers have told me isn't a lot, but when you think how many teabags are actually used...”(3)

Aside from Pukka, Jacksons of Piccadilly and Teapigs were the only other major brands to state that they did not use plastic in their teabags.

Of our Best Buys from our tea guide, the following companies do not use plastic in their tea bags: Equal Exchange, Steenbergs, Hampstead Tea.

Government waste body Wrap continues to advise composting tea bags as the most environmentally-friendly option. But until our favourite cuppas go plastic-free, it might be time to opt for loose leaf teas.







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