Day 15 of A Life Less Plastic: a nice cup of guilt

February 28, 2018

Few can deny that one of life’s simple pleasures is a nice cup of tea and a sit down. It’s a wonderful way to start your day, the perfect break from work, it warms you up when you’re cold and it cools you down on a hot day (so says my Mum, who I actually tend to agree with here). 


But now those pesky plastic gods are denying me one of my favourite ever things, because apparently tea bags contain a plastic called polypropylene, which seals the bags so they don’t disintegrate when you’re brewing. Is nothing sacred?!


I discovered this after reading this article on the BBC site, which described how gardener Mike Armitage had found a “white fluff, like the inside of a duvet” from teabags in his garden compost. This white fluff is the polypropy-whatever-it’s-called, which will presumably be washed into rivers and the sea over time.


A conundrum for sure.


“Switch to loose leaf!” everyone cried.


So I tried. I went to the supermarket and looked for loose leaf tea, but every type I found was sold in plastic packets, which kind of defeats the object somewhat. The only manufacturer that doesn’t use plastic seems to be Teapigs, whose ‘Tea Temples’ (pointy teabags) are made from corn starch and they’re sealed with heat, not glue. They come in a cardboard box inside a clear inner plastic (!) bag, but apparently they’re switching this to a ‘Natureflex’ bag soon, which is compostable.


So far, so eco. But the thing about Teapigs is that you need to take out a small mortgage if you want to make the switch. The cheapest I’ve found them is £4 for a pack for… wait for it… a princely total of 15 Tea Temples. This wouldn’t even last me three days! Sorry Teapigs, you ain’t the solution here.


I think that the only way to do it is to buy loose leaf tea in a paper bag from a market or café or somewhere like that, which is an unbelievable faff. I’m currently drinking a mixture of loose leaf and Teapigs at the moment, but it’s definitely not sustainable…


Come on tea manufacturers, SORT YOURSELVES OUT!




On the very day I wrote this, PG Tips announced in this article that they're switching their pyramid teabags to plastic-free, fully biodegradable teabags from as soon as NEXT WEEK! Maybe the tide is actually turning. Here's hoping other manufacturers follow suit soon...




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© 2019 by Jules Birkby / Now Then, Sunshine.