Lifestyle Plastic Knowledge

Is there plastic in my tea? And what to do about it…

February 20, 2020
Cup of tea - Sustainable Vibes

Hands up if you are reading this with a cup of tea nearby. Or have had one in the last hour. Or are now thinking of having one (and a little biccie to go with it…) But have you considered that you are consuming plastic in your cup of tea?

We are a big tea drinking nation. Despite the coffee movement seeing a swell in numbers, we still drink 165 million cups every day across the country

But, there has been a lot in the media lately about the plastic contained in teabags.

The teabag can either be made of plastic, or it can be sealed with plastic (polypropylene). I will never forget the shock when my inlaws alerted me to this fact several years ago. Pure horror!

The American Chemical Society released a report in 2019 stating that “steeping a single plastic teabag at brewing temperature (95 °C) releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup of the beverage”

Now if you are on a journey to eliminate plastic from your life, this is a problem. And even if you are not trying to go totally plastic free, the thought that those little bits of micro plastics are breaking down in your drink and being consumed in every single cup is quite horrific. And not only that. Despite claims that you can compost your teabag, there are concerns that those micro plastics still contaminate the soil they are composting in.

Cup of tea with tea bag - is there plastic in your tea?

So, what do you do?

There are two options to keep your daily brew alive.

1. Choose a teabag that is plastic free (while you are at it, choose the plastic free packaging as well). More on that in a moment

2. Choose to use loose leaf tea and a tea strainer.

Let’s chat about the tea strainer for a bit.

The days of using tea leaves simply to read your fortune are long gone. Loose leaf tea is now pretty main stream with brands such as Twinnings and Clipper giving a wide range to consumers.

It’s pretty well taken as standard that a pot of tea brewed with tea leaves makes a nicer cuppa.

In our house we use the duo approach. We use tea leaves to make a pot 90% of the time. But sometimes you just need a quick pick me up or a fast cup before hurtling out the door and that’s when we use a tea bag in a cup. Quick and easy but nowhere near as satisfying.

Since we moved to loose leaf tea we have found that the consumption of the daily cuppa has been more satisfying.

I can’t count the number of tea bag cups we used to make only to forget to take the bag out, or let the cup go cold. I didn’t place enough value on drinking it in time. Now that we use the loose leaf in a pot, the act of making the tea is more mindful. We take more care over the scoops, giving the strainer a little shake once the lid is on, to make sure it is secure and fluffed up inside. Pop the pot on the counter and enjoy the anticipation of pouring a hot steaming cup a few minutes later. This might all sound a little like teaching Grandma to suck eggs… but seriously, it has been so much more enjoyable for us!

And the strainers you can now get are so easy to use.

Ours comes with a little chain to hook onto your cup or your pot so you don’t have to fish around to get it out. And a tray to rest it on when you do remove it, no tea stains on the counter!

And its more cost effective too.

Tea leaves can be reused several times before popping in your compost bin. So those cups of tea that go cold no longer need to be a waste of money and resources, as you can continue to use the same tea leaves all day – just empty them out at night.

Cup of tea being poured over tea leaves - no plastic in this tea

Now, if you still want to go down the tea bag route, let talks about what is available.

Some specialty tea bags and some from overseas are actually in plastic bags, so you want to stay away from those entirely.

Most of the main brands like Tetley, Punjana, Lipton, Dilmah – they still use plastic to seal the bag. In fact, as many as 96% of tea bags sold in the UK are still sealed with polypropylene. Main stream producers are still not up to speed with the need to innovate and provide us with a healthier, more eco-friendly teabag.

So, what tea can I buy, I hear you ask.

When we started the research for our blog, reading about what each manufacturer currently provides, and claims they will provide in the future, we kept coming back to the advice at the Independent. So, we will let you read what they have to say about it here as they give a comprehensive overview.

What tea do you use in your house? Have you made the switch to loose leaf, or plastic free teabags? Has it changed your consumption habits? Have you turned to the dark side and become a coffee drinker? We would love to know your comments!

Thanks for reading!


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