Plastic Free Tea: Let’s Start a Campaign!

Plastic Free Tea: Let’s Start a Campaign!

My discovery during Plastic Free July that teabags contain plastic made me mad. It made me really mad. Why, I wondered, when I generally drink loose leaf tea anyway? I came up with two reasons. (Well, three reasons. ‘Generally’ means I do drink tea made from teabags occasionally.) Firstly, the information I read stated that all teabag producers use plastic in their teabags…except one. That is the key. If one company can make plastic-free teabags, then it’s obviously possible – so why don’t the others? The second reason was that the Sustainability Officer for Teadirect (the Sustainability Officer, no less!), was quoted as saying this: “Most consumers don’t notice [the polypropylene] and probably don’t care.” Don’t notice?! Don’t care?! I think what’s more relevant is that consumers probably don’t know. What’s more, I care, and I know plenty of other people who also care…including Plastic is Rubbish and WestyWrites who have also been raising awareness, contacting tea companies to find out what their teabags are made of, and complaining about this use of plastic! Whether we’re in the minority or not, we still exist! So we’ve decided to do something about it, and we’d love you to join us!

The Campaign for Plastic-Free Tea

Taking that quote that made me so cross, and turning it round, I want all these tea companies to know that actually, people DO notice, and what’s more, they care, too.

teabagjpg

I’d love you all to tell these companies that you don’t like plastic in your teabags, and you want them to change. I want to make it as easy as possible for you, so I’ve done the legwork and got all the contact details I could find for some of the more popular teabag companies. If you have another you’d like me to add, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to this list!

Even if a company doesn’t sell products in your part of the world, don’t feel like you just have to stick to your little corner! Complain away!

Your Mission…Should You Choose to Accept it…

Choose how you prefer to contact each company. I’ve listed email addresses, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, if they have them. Use the hashtag #plasticfreetea on social media so we can find your comments!

Clipper Tea

Clipper tea use plastic in their square bags, but not in the individual string bags, as found out by The Snail of Happiness who wrote a letter and received this response:

“We can confirm that certain types of tea bags do contain polymer fibres. Standard square or round tea bags which are the most common in the UK market will all contain a type of polymer fibre as they are made using heat-sealable filter paper. The tea bag filter paper requires a means of sealing the two layers of paper together as paper will not stick to paper and glue is not used. The filter paper Clipper uses for this type of tea bag contains polypropylene to provide the heat-seal function. The filter paper is food grade for its intended purpose and meets all relevant UK and EU Regulations.
The filter paper used to produce tea bags with the string and tag attached does not need to be heat-sealable, as it is closed differently, and therefore does not contain any polymer fibres/plastic content.

Contact Clipper and tell them we don’t want plastic in our teabags!

By email: help@clipper-teas.com

Twitter: @ClipperTeas

Clipper Teas on Facebook

Yorkshire Tea

Yorkshire Tea informed @Westywrites via Twitter that:

“There’s an incredibly fine plastic mesh woven into the teabag for strength and structure.”

Contact Yorkshire Tea: contact form via their website

Twitter: @YorkshireTea

Yorkshire Tea on Facebook

PG Tips:

PG Tips informed Westywrites via phone that:

“There is a small amount of plastic in the tea bags to hold the bag together.”

Contact PG Tips: contact form via their website

Twitter: UK @PGtips or USA @PGTipsUSA

PG Tips on Facebook

Nerada:

Twothirdswild contacted Nerada about potential plastic in their teabags, and was told:

“There are cellulose and thermo-plastic fibres in the bags which are necessary to seal the product! Their bags are however, made from manila hemp, which has been oxygen whitened, not treated with chlorine or chlorine based compounds.”

Contact Nerada: contact form via their website

Nerada on Facebook

Twinings Tea

The information I read from 2010 stated Twinings use plastic in their teabags, but I’m yet to discover if it’s still the case. Chances are, it is.

Twinings operate in 100 countries. Find your local contact information here.

Contact Twinings UK: contact form via their website.

Twitter: @TwiningsTeaUK @TwiningsAU

Twinings UK on Facebook and Twinings Australia on Facebook

Tea-Drinking Not Your Thing?

You don’t have to be a tea-drinker to join in, just a plastic-hater! Most of us have accepted that to drink tea and avoid plastic we’ll have to switch to loose leaf tea, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be letting companies know our disappointment – if they don’t know, they won’t have any reason to change.

We can all do our bit to reduce our plastic waste through our consumption, but we can also take things to the next level and speak out about plastic in our products. Maybe teabags didn’t make you mad – but I bet something else did! If you kept a dilemma bag during Plastic-Free July, have a look and see what companies produced these products – and send them a message. I’ll be joining the Plastic Free July team on Thursday night for the Plastic Free July finale, and as well as a celebration there’s gonna be a letter-writing frenzy as we all contact these companies and tell them what we think!

Have you complained to any companies about plastic in their products? What was their response? If you haven’t already – it’s not too late to join in! Please make sure you share who you wrote to and how they replied. Any other thoughts? Leave a comment below!

72 Responses to Plastic Free Tea: Let’s Start a Campaign!

  1. I’m in! The response that most people don’t know or care is a nonesense – most people didn’t know that smoking was bad for them until it started to become obvious. Now everyone cares and rightly so. well done to you all for leading the charge. i mostly drink PUkka teas so will do a bit of research on them!

    • That’s great, welcome! That’s so true about the smoking – I think in a few years time people will be dismayed that we used all this plastic thinking it was safe and inert when all along it was leaching chemicals and damaging our health, and move away from it. I really hope so!

      Please let me know what they say! : )

      • Hi Lindsay, can you tell me where I can buy loose tea that is not sold in plastic. I bought some biodegradable tea bags from mighty leaf but even these come in ‘foil’ pouches which appear to be plastic lined

          • I’m in the uk and am struggling to find loose tea, preferably organic that is not sold in plastic. I can get it from my local market but it is very pricey and I am on a tight budget. Can you help?!

            • Hi Alexandra. In my experience loose tea is expensive per kilo, but is very light. I’d suggest buying some and seeing how many cups of tea you can get out of it. If it’s good quality and you only need a small amount, it might be quite cost effective. Worth a try at least :)

    • Good question. So far Clipper have said they make their string bags without plastic, but they come in a plastic bag! We seem to be building an army of people writing to various companies to find out, so feel free to join in and write to any and let us know what their responses are! We need to get to the bottom of this!

    • i know one company from Seattle that make teabag plastic free. The company name is TeaVert
      They are using birch and create a bag like origami without glue or staples.

    • Good work! Whether we drink tea with teabags or not, it’s such a wasteful use of plastic – and so unnecessary! Thanks for joining us! : )

  2. If you don’t like tea, perhaps you like coffee from coffee-pads, the round pads are the same as the round teabags; to glue the two layers together, they usually use plastic.
    If you use loose tea for one cup, where do you put the loose tea in, in a tea-egg or a filter paper (I’m not sure, if there istn’t plastic inside???) If the leafs of the loose tea are too tiny they fall through the tea-egg and collect on the ground of the mug — arrrgh, that is bad with black tea!

    • Hi Suzanne, thanks for your comment. I only drink coffee from coffee beans that I grind myself – it’s the only way! I use a tea ball with a fine mesh or a teapot (it’s a one cup pot) and a tea strainer that is also very fine. No bits of tea in the bottom of the cup for me! : )

    • Yes, it’s mysterious because in the 2010 report it said Jacksons of Piccadilly were plastic-free, yet Twinings aren’t…and they are the same company! Will be interested to hear what they have to say…

      • They havent replied so Ill tweet them…I like my tea so hopefully they are plastic free. I got jipped yesterday buying loose tea (billy tea brand) that I thought was just loose in the box and also Natures Cuppa organic tea bags clearly state they have only unbleached paper in the tea bags (which is good) but then still come in plastic wrapping inside the outer box…

        • Plastic is something that’s very hard to avoid! I hope they do get back to you, because it’s something we should know about >: (

  3. Encountered Clippers for the first time this weekend. Bought an irresistible sounding flavour of tea bags (white tea and raspberry!). Definitely yummy! But wrapped in foil and now I find out I’ve been drinking plastic infused tea. Not so yum. Have written to them!

    • That tea does sound very nice! : ) The “foil” they are wrapped in is actually plastic too. Good on you for writing to them; hopefully they will start to rethink their packaging!

  4. Hi Lindsay, I am posting a huge comment today in regard to your tea-bag challenge. I wanted to post this copy of my letter to Nerada, in Australia, in relation to plastic fibres being in their tea-bags. I thought it might be an idea to show an example of what to say to companies when thinking about drafting a letter to voice concern about ‘plastic in teabags’. I hope it helps.

    Hi (whoever)

    I recently contacted you in regard whether there are plastic fibres in your tea-bags, and received a very prompt and informative response in the affirmative. I have decided to follow this issue up with you (and the company you represent) as a concerned consumer and a voice for many others who have the same concerns that I do.

    I understand that you have the required food safety procedures in place (HACCP SQF), and manufacture your tea-bags to the high standards required by law for human consumption. But it is this very issue that concerns me. If your tea-bags are designed to be immersed in very hot water, how can you know that the thermoplastic fibres in the tea-bags do not partially dissolve or leach chemicals into the water that are then ingested by an unsuspecting tea-drinker?

    Given that many tea-drinkers will drink several cups of tea per day, then the potential for plastic fibre ingestion then increases accordingly. I for one, don’t like the idea of possibly swallowing plastic fibres every time I consume a cup of tea, and I certainly do not want to take the risk of potentially toxic chemicals leaching out of these plastic fibres and into my body. All for the convenience of having a cup of tea made with a tea-bag.

    I place my tea-bags in my compost bin when I am done with them. That now raises another concern. Why would I want to be adding plastic fibres and potentially toxic chemicals into the compost I make to put on my vegetable garden?

    In the interests of providing a 100% safe tea-bag for consumers to use, isn’t there another alternative to the design of your product that could be considered to alleviate growing public concern over the potential for ingesting plastic fibres with the daily cup of tea?

    I firmly believe that it’s up to us as consumers to assert our rights and say what we want in the products we buy with our money. It is also the responsibility of companies to design and manufacture their products to a sustainable and safe standard, especially when it comes to products designed for human consumption.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you.

    Kind regards (whoever).

    • That’s awesome…thanks so much! The easier it is for people, the more willing they will be to make a fuss…I hope! : )

  5. I’ve got my reply!

    Dear Leah

    Thank you for your further enquiry.

    We are HACCP, SQF, WQA ACO and NASAA certified as is required by the Australian & New Zealand Food Standards Code. We are audited every 6 months. The heatseal paper is certified as a food grade paper internationally and is manufactured for the specific purpose of infusions tea, herbs and coffee in boiling water. The thermo-plastic fires or paper are not chemically broken down in any way so as to leach into the infused beverage – so it is 100% safe when used for the purpose it was made for.

    Unfortunately heatseal paper is not 100% bio-degradable due to small amount of thermo-plastic fibre it contains.

    Nerada (along with many other tea packers in the world) use teabag machines that use heat to seal the filter paper closed so for us there is no other alternative.

    The paper is sustainable and safe. The main component is manilla hemp the cultivation of which is in itself is sustainable.

    Hope this answers your question.

    Kind regards

    Andrew

    • Thanks for sharing! It’s a shame that they think the plastic is safe – I feel like it’s going to be the big health shock of the 21st Century: plastic isn’t inert after all, world discovers! After all, they said cigarettes were safe, and asbestos, and phthalates, and BPA, and parabens. Everything is safe…until it isn’t.

      The search is on for a new/better brand of tea then!

  6. Hi, really interesting article, could you tell us which company is the one company that doesn’t use plastics in their tea bags please? Would be interested to know . . . . .

    • Hi Deb, whereabouts are you? Apparently Jacksons of Piccadilly don’t use plastic in their tea bags; nor do Tea Tonic. There are other brands but they have plastic packaging so I can’t count them!

  7. Hello!

    Thank you for organising a fantastic campaign. I started thinking of organising one myself and will happily join in to yours. I have switched to drinking lovely loose tea, mainly from canton or jing tea. But even they use plastic bags. Come on! Luxury tea in plastic pyramids. I can’t believe it.
    I emailed another company – Clearspring – they do nice organic teas. And this was their reply:

    “Thank you for your email.

    The tea bags for all of our teas are made from a food grade plastic polymer.

    If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.”
    I did ask when they are planning to package their lovely ORGANIC tea in non-plastic bags.

    Anyways, I look forward to finding a company that does nice tea in plastic free tea bags.

    I will be emailing other companies. ;)

    • Hello Anna, thank you for joining us! I totally hear your frustration! Thanks for sharing the update and please let me know if you have any other success with any other companies. I’ve found a company in Australia that sell organic tea bags in plastic-free packaging (although I’m not convinced the cardboard isn’t coated) but their tea bags are very expensive. They are called Tea Tonic. I’m not sure whether you can get them overseas. At the moment I’m sticking to loose leaf tea I buy in bulk : )

      Please let me know how you get on!

      • Thank you for your reply! I also found Pukka teas. They do green, black tea and herbal teas.
        Most of their teas are excellent!
        This is info from their web site:

        “Pukka tea bags are made from wood pulps and Acaba (Musa textilis) also known as Manila hemp. The string is made from certified organic cotton. And they are staple-free. They are 100% biodegradeable and/or recyclable.

        There has been recent media interest in the use of the substance epichlorohydrin for manufacturing tea bag paper. Our tea bag paper does not contain any epichlorohydrin whatsoever, and that it is regularly checked through Pukka’s rigorous quality control testing and complies with all relevant EU and US food regulations.

        Our teabags are not heat sealed; therefore do not require a polymer of any kind to keep them closed. The machine folds the bag and sews it shut with a single piece of organic cotton thread. Some other manufactures use teabag’s which have a polypropylene (PP) lining which when heated bonds together to seal the tea inside. Not ours. ”

        They only sell in the UK at the moment due to environmental issues apparently. :)

        So I think this is as good as it gets. Unless I am missing something… Their green tea with matcha is ok (not as good as some others) but I will be using it since it is quite environmentally friendly. :)

        • I used to drink Pukka teas in the UK, and actually they are available in Australia too (lots of the health food shops sell them). In fact, I was given some a few days ago, but my husband insisted the wrapper was plastic. So I put some water in it, and left it in a cup for three days. It was still able to hold water after all that time! Good to hear the tea bags are plastic-free – I should probably write to them and ask what the tea bag wrappers are made from. I’ll add it to the to-do list!

          • Hi!
            This is what they say the on their web site (they obviously need to work on this issue):
            Our tea bags are compostable but at the moment our tea sachets (the envelopes that hold the bag) have a Polyethylene (PE) lamination and for this reason they are currently unable to be recycled. We are however on a quest to find a mass produced fully biodegradable and/or compostable sachet that will protect the quality of our organic herbs. We hope to have news on this soon.
            Thank you for your great website by the way!
            Anna

  8. I have written to many suppliers of organic tea. I have asked them if the tea is packaged in materials that may contain Bpa, Bps, Phalater, GMO, epiresin or acrylic resin of any kind. So far I’m still looking for that really serious supplier that I want to buy from!

    • The problem, as I see it, is like this: plastic degrades and is unstable upon heating – which is why plastic melts, shouldn’t go in the dishwasher, etc. The idea of pouring boiling water on plastic and drinking it doesn’t appeal to me. More importantly though – plastic in tea bags is completely unnecessary. Teabags can be made without plastic. I’m not a fan of single-use anything, even more so when it’s not biodegradable. Why would we use resources made from fossil fuels for a single use task that lasts minutes, when there is an alternative?

      I hope that answers your question Val! : )

  9. I’m glad to see someone is working on this. A list of plastic free tea sellers is essential, and get some places like whole foods involved… will they support it.? I read a lot of health and nutritional mags and I don’t see this being addressed. It seemed like another arrogant move (the bags) and I thought many more people would have complained. A bumper sticker would be nice. There’s not enough plastic going into our body yet? With some effort we could win a victory here.

  10. Hi there, I just sent an email to Healtheries asking if they use plastic in their teabags via their page: http://www.healtheries.co.nz/Why-Healtheries/Contact-Us.
    We drink heaps of their green tea in this house partly because we thought it was healthy (although I hate the unnecessary plastic wrapping on the box). Will let you know what their response is once I receive it. Thanks for sharing.
    Louise

  11. Im in too! I stopped using Twinnings a few months ago after I realised it had chemicals in the tea and tasted horrible. I am so angry to find they use plastic in teabags! Plastic chemical poisons will leak into tea easily after we pour hot or boiling water! Are these companies stupid? They may have caused cancer in many others already! To the companies if you continue to poison us we will no more buy from u!

    • Thanks for your comment and support Chelle! It makes me cross too, mostly because it is so unnecessary and I feel that it is quite underhand. Someone pointed out to me that the Clipper packaging states “we never add anything artificial, we don’t even bleach our teabags.” Yet they use plastic! How is that not artificial, I wonder…

      Loose leaf tea it is for me : )

    • Thanks for this Rich – what about their plastic footprint? Paper can be sourced from recycled sources or sustainably managed forests. Plastic comes from fossil fuels, and never breaks down .It’s about more than just the carbon, Yorkshire Tea!

  12. Ahh, thankyou. Didnt know and do care. I had been not using as many teabags for the plastic wrapping, but also didnt realise their is plastic in the teabag.

      • I just found out about this last night, I had NO IDEA! Not to mention that even some organic loose leaf teas have traces of pesticides & advertise & stamp falsely on their packages. How they get away with that I don’t know. I will be changing to loose leaf tea stat. Just ordered some Organic Numi tea online as it was one of two I could find, that information was available for, that “said” they were chemical, pesticide, plastics, you name it “FREE…” I’m in Australia, if you know of any loose leaf organic tea, that is truly pesticide free, I really need to know & would so appreciate it. Thank you for the information, can’t believe I’ve been unknowingly injesting this stuff for so long.

        Anne :)

        • Hi Anne, thanks for your comment! There is a company called Tea Tonic that sell organic plastic-free teabags, and they have some loose leaf without plastic too. I can buy organic English Breakfast and green tea at my local bulk store, but no idea where it comes from!

  13. This concerns me greatly. I recently purchased Lidl decaf tea bags and have found their bags to feel very unusual…I didn’t even think that they may contain plastic. I’ll just have to try breaking my tea habit and will stick with water from now on, or at least until I can find a tea company that doesn’t treat me like a fool. You’re doing fab work, good on you.

  14. Hi Lindsay, I recently learned about plastic in tea bags *Sigh* I contacted CafeDirect last month (who make TeaDirect) to ask them what their tea bags were made from and they said that the bags are now 100% biodegradable and made from non-chlorine-bleached cellulose only. I am now a serial tea packet shaker to see if I can hear a plastic bag inside the box too. I’m looking for a replacement for my Clipper tea habit, as there’s a ‘freshness bag’ inside every box. I’m taking part in Plastic Free July this year so I’m getting my research in now! Thank you for your lovely blog – it’s so encouraging.

    • Hi Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to contact them and to letting me know about the change. Good news! Only another zillion companies to persuade to change ;)

      Hope your Plastic Free July challenge went well, and sorry I somehow missed this comment before! Better late than never!

      • Café Direct tea bags, according to their website, contain 30% plastic. Tea Direct seem to have no info at all re packaging etc on their website, but they do sell the awful pods for machines. In other words neither of these companies seem very good.

        Caz

  15. Lindsay thank you for all that you do. We switched to loose leaf yonks ago and I am going to do what I can to encourage people in South Africa too. Out together a little blog post with info to your posts and info relevant to South Africa too!

  16. Nature’s Cuppa (via Facebook) told me they were totally plastic free, including cellophane inside their boxes, but then they said that their bags were “heat crimped sealed”–I’m not sure that would even work on a just paper bag, so I think I’ll try and compost one to see what happens…

    • Hi Michelle, I actually heard directly from the factory where Nature’s Cuppa is made a few months ago. (The person at Nature’s Cuppa wasn’t sure and so forwarded my questions direct to the factory.) The teabags are plastic-free, yes, but the outer packaging is not. The clear pouch (for black tea and English Breakfast) is BOPP – bi-oriented polypropylene.

      For flavoured teas they use alfoil – specifically 12 met pet,70 C LDPE. Don’t know what the first bit means, but the plastic is low-density polyethylene.

      Hop that helps :)

  17. Hi, I didn’t know that plastic was used in tea bag production until I watched the programme last week ‘Inside the factory’. I believe that Pukka don’t use plastic & Pigtea usecorn starch in their teabags.

    • Hi Paul, yes there are a few brands that don’t, including Pukka. I’m not a fan of “cornstarch” teabags as they are basically plastic made from corn. Being made from plants isn’t a guarantee that the plastic is biodegradable or compostable and a lot of companies use these claims to imply a product is greener than it is. Teapigs claim their teabags are biodegradable, but they are not certified compostable. Biodegradable means “will break down in the presence of bacteria until no longer visible” whereas compostable means will break down into natural components and houmus.

  18. Hi I only found out last night about plastic in teabags when I read the Radio Times letters page and someone had written in saying they too had watched the programme last week Inside the factory. I am very shocked and will change to loose tea and I will also find out about Tea Tonic that is mentioned on this page. I will also write to tea companies as detailed above. Thank you for this campaign I will join you regards Jo BK

    • Hi Jo! I think a lot of people were shocked by that documentary. It just seems like such an unnecessary use of plastic. Good news is there are brands which are plastic-free, and there’s always good old loose leaf :)

      If you hear back from companies I’d love to get an update, so please let me know :)

  19. I’ve only recently found out about this issue and am very concerned about it too. It has inspired me to start an ethical shopping blog. The first post is about plastic in teabags–you can read it here: http://thegreenshopper.co.uk/

    I’ve also started a petition to ask the Soil Association to stop certifying teabags which contain plastic as it seems to directly contradict their standards. At least if they couldn’t certify teabags containing plastic we would be safe buying organic tea! Please sign and share: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/organic-teabags-shouldn-t-be-allowed-to-contain-plastic

    • Hi Ruth, thanks for your comment. It is certainly an issue that is becoming more commonly talked about – great to have you on board :) It would be great to get the Soil Association on board. Have you written to them to gauge their thoughts? You might find they are willing to listen, I imagine it is something many of their readers will be concerned about! Good luck and let me know how you get on :)

Share your thoughts!