Many of you will have heard that some teabags contain plastic. Consumer awareness is growing fast, following the 2017 BBC2 documentary ‘Inside the Factory’.
In fact, most ‘pillow’ and ‘pyramid’ style teabags rely on polypropylene fibres embedded in the outer layer to heat-seal the edges shut. Millions of teabags are home composted or put into food waste schemes. They end up in the soil, where the microscopic plastic fibres accumulate and pose a risk to wildlife.
This environmental pollution may be invisible, but it is not insignificant. With 165 million cups of tea drunk in Britain each day, that’s a whole lot of microplastic on its way into our soil and water.
- Many tea bags contain plastic.
- The alternative, Polylactic Acid (PLA), can contain material from genetically modified sources.
- PLA teabags should go into council food waste, as they won’t break down in most home composting conditions.
- The best way to dispose of plastic tea bags is to rip them open and compost the leaves, but put the bag into the bin.
- Watch out for hidden plastics in sachets or string-and-tag bags.
What is microplastic?
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, officially defined as any piece of plastic less than 5mm in size. There are two categories:
- primary microplastics are up to 5mm in size when manufactured;
- secondary microplastics are small pieces made from larger items degrading in the environment.
Research has found them turning up in all sorts of places, including seafood, salt, tap water and even in our bodies.