Eco-friendly, Sustainable Tea Brands
Have an eco-friendly cuppa!
Did you know that tea bags are actually one of the biggest threats to the environment? Nope, me either. I always thought tea-bags were OK. I mean, they are just paper, right? Well, it turns out they contain a number of nasty chemicals such as nano plastics and glue. To think, all that’s going straight into our mugs and the ocean.
What’s the problem with tea bags?
- Many companies use a glue called polypropylene to keep the bags sealed and maintain its structure intact in hot water. This means that tea bags can’t entirely decompose, and cannot be composted either. In fact, composting is actually worse as it takes even longer to even partially decompose!
- Polypropylene is not good for our health. We are basically eating plastic which can impact our hormones and cause a range of health issues.
- According to the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Environmental Science and Technology; a single plastic bag at room temperature releases about 11.6 billion miniscule particles which are known as microplastics and 3.1 billion nano plastics.
- Most tea bags contain up to 25% plastic.
Some plastic free tea brands to consider
I’m a fan of herbal teas so I was over the moon to find that Clippers produce unbleached, non-plastic tea bags. Their materials are completely biodegradable and are plant based. They are Fairtrade, organic and so not only are they producing planet friendly tea bags, they support human rights and equality. Clippers supports over 114,000 producers and their families to have access to education and medical care.
I love Clippers tea but unfortunately, they still use foil wrapper within their packaging. They do however recognise this and are hoping to change to biodegradable wraps.
They are pricey for me so I only purchase when on offer but when I do, it’s a treat! They believe in the beauty of power and nature; campaigning for a healthier world and building and nurturing relationships with farmers and partners; helping to create a sustainable future. On their website, they state that they donate 1% of revenue to environmental and social causes. They use organic ingredients and have an aim of a zero-carbon footprint by 2030 (validated by the Science Based Targets initiative in 2018).
Pukka’s tea bags are recyclable and can go straight into your food waste bin. Paper tag and bag can go into the recycling. The paper is made from a type of special banana (go bananas!) and wood/plant materials. The paper is FSC certified. It contains a very thin coating of plastic in order to protect the herbs, but which is free from BPA and PVC. 100% organic cotton is used to stitch the bags together.
I always feel quite posh when using these teabags. I don’t know why, I think it’s the silky smoothness of the bags! The taste is super clean and strong. On their website, they state they are a certified B Corporation: a company that works to help businesses meet high standards of social and environmental performance. They were the first tea company to be awarded the plastic free trust mark (from A Plastic Planet). Their tea bags are made from corn starch and paper which breaks down in industrial composting within 12 weeks. The inner bags are made from wood pulp which again can be put into food waste. The outer packaging is FSC certified paper (the print is vegetable ink!). Loose leaf pouches however, contain polyethylene – they are working hard on changing this.
PG Tips were one of the first tea companies in the UK to carry the Rainforest Alliance Certificate! They work with farmers and pay them a decent living wage with access to healthcare, housing and education. They have recently launched their first 100% biodegradable pyramid tea bag which removes polypropylene and uses a plant based material made from corn. It is biodegradable and can be composted or put into food waste. They are working to remove the film that covers the PG Tips boxes. Some old boxes are still on the shelves until old packaging is out of stock – being sustainable!
Co-Op 99p range:
Apparently, Co-Ops 99p tea bags are biodegradable. I’m not 100% sure on this so don’t take my word on it, but it's an interesting one to include. They don’t seem to note it on the box anywhere which is a tad strange. It would be a great way to attract customers! It does make me question how genuine they are. Or maybe, like PG Tips, they are using old packaging?
In an article online, the Co-op stated they were one of the first retailers to find a solution to the problem of plastic waste. Their new bags are biodegradable and are fully compostable in food waste bins. The latest stage in their journey is to make the outer packaging recyclable (this should be out this year, 2020). A great move in the right direction, but as said I’m a bit hesitant on how true this is and just how much progression towards plastic free has been made.
Well, who knew a tiny tea bag would be such a threat to the environment and human rights. It goes to show that what you initially perceive to be OK, can sometimes turn out to be the opposite.
When I go to add a box of tea bags to my shopping list, I now know to look for Fairtrade marks, FSC or Rainforest Alliance marks. Do they say their bags are fully biodegradable? Is it mentioned on their website? Companies are keen to make it known if they are doing good for the planet; read their sustainability and ethos statements, get to know them and the steps they are making to human rights and the planet.
We don’t necessarily have to make big, dramatic changes in our journey to sustainability; these small swaps in our everyday lives can make a big difference too.