It’s a common question that is searched for on the internet. As soon as we hear the rumour from someone, we want to know the truth. Do tea bags in Australia contain plastic?
TLDR: Yes, many do!
"Steeping a plastic tea bag at a brewing temperature of 95°C releases around 11.6 billion microplastics into your tea!"
A 2019 study by McGill University found that steeping a plastic tea bag at a brewing temperature of 95°C releases around 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nano plastics into your tea! Microplastic are between 100 nanometres and 5 millimetres in size and 11.6 billion of these bad boys are potentially ending up in your morning cup of tea. Combine this with the fact that all those micro and nano sized particles are heading down your drain (or your toilet) and back out into the environment and you can see why mindful consumers may be on the look out for a plastic free alternative.
Why on earth would a tea bag contain plastic?
Tea bags usually only contain plastic to either help bind the fibres of the bag together, or to help heat seal the bag, or to keep the bag sealed while it is in the hot water in your mug. Sounds great in theory, other than the drinking plastic part hey…
A much better option is to find a tea bag that’s made from unbleached paper, no polymers and no plasticisers. Look for tea bags that are stitched or stapled together rather than glued or heat sealed.
Below are a few known plastic tea bags, or tea bags that contain plastics. This information may change as tea companies find new ways of making and sealing their tea bags, but to my knowledge are correct at the time of writing.
Plastic Containing Tea Bags
|Tea Bags:||What they’re made from:|
|Lipton Green Decaf, Chai and Herbal (traditional tea bags)||Manila hemp (abaca plants), cellulose, thermoplastic fibres – Not compostable, not recyclable|
|Bushells Tea Bags||Manila hemp (abaca plants), cellulose, thermoplastic fibres – Not compostable, not recyclable|
|Nerada tea filter paper||Manila hemp (abaca plants), contains less than 2% food grade synthetic fibres) for heat sealing bags|
|Madura tea bag filter paper||80% natural fibres, 20% synthetics|
|Tetley||Contain small amount of plastic to ensure bags remain closed when steeping in hot liquid|
|Twinings||Acrylic polymer binder to bind materials to create the paper for their tea bags|
On a lighter note, the good news is that there are also a few different options for plastic-free tea bags for all my fellow tea drinkers to take a look at.
Plastic Free Tea Bag Brands / Bags
|Plastic Free Tea Bags& Loose Leaf Teas:||Details:|
|Dilmah Organic||Organic range only, not conventional, plastic free and can be disposed of in the compost bin|
|Clipper Teas||Plant based, biodegradable, unbleached, non-GMO|
|Harney & Sons||Fastened with a knot and string, no glue or staple, oxygen bleached and fully compostable|
|Higher Living Teas||Completely compostable, unbleached paper with organic cotton string stitched into the fabric, completely compostable bags|
|My Herbal Apothecary (that’s me!)||A beautiful range of loose leaf, organic herbal teas|
|Nature’s Cuppa Organic||Unbleached paper, no polymers, no plasticisers, closed with a metal staple, 100% eco-organic and environmentally sustainable|
|Pukka||Simple stitch of organic cotton and organic strings with unique folding process|
|T2 (New Teabags)||Now made from cornstarch and are biodegradable thanks to customer demand|
|Tielka||Zero plastic, fabric made from corn fibre|
This list is by no means comprehensive and please remember that tea manufacturers are continually updating and improving their manufacturing processes and this information is subject to change.
Find An Alternative To Commercial Tea Bags
If you’ve decided you’re just not happy buying commercial tea bags any longer, then why not try buying reusable tea bags for loose leaf tea or even try making you’re own from some organic muslin cloth if you’re a bit handy? Alternatively, good old fashioned loose leaf tea can be brewed and the tea leaves filtered in so many ways these days, why not forgo the tea bags altogether?
You can even check out my range of loose leaf herbal teas while you’re here. Now that’s not only a great plastic free option for the environment, but beneficial for your health too!
- Plastic Teabags Release Billions of Microparticles and Nanoparticles into Tea – Laura M. Hernandez, Elvis Genbo Xu, Hans C. E. Larsson, Rui Tahara, Vimal B. Maisuria, and Nathalie Tufenkji Environmental Science & Technology 2019 53 (21), 12300-12310 – DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b02540