8 February 2018

Teabags

Most British people drink a lot of tea. When I was a boy, our tea  brewed in the big brown family teapot. When pouring the tea from the pot we used a stainless steel strainer to catch the loose tea leaves. In those days teabags were not available in our shops. It was loose tea or nothing.

By the early sixties, teabags were taking over. Many people tried to resist the change but gradually teabags won out. They were easier to use and much less messy. By swirling a teabag around in boiling water you could make a single mug of tea. What a brilliant invention!

But there's a catch. Were you aware of this?

All teabags that are currently available in our supermarkets contain plastic! In general, the "paper" bags are indeed composed of around 80% biodegradable paper. However, manufacturers also include a significant amount of polypropylene which they say is necessary to "seal" the teabags. Needless to say, polypropylene is not biodegradable.

I checked out a recent purchase of teabags - a pack of 180 teabags. Studying all pieces of writing on the pack I found no reference to the fact that plastic is present in those teabags and no reference to any recycling or composting issues.

Over the years, I have put thousands of old teabags into our garden compost, naively believing that the bags were entirely made from biodegradable paper. It is shocking and concerning to at last discover that all teabags contain plastic. This truth should be emblazoned on all teabag packs and not cunningly kept secret from customers. I can only imagine with horror that through composting, small traces of teabag plastic have leached into our garden vegetables. In that sense, I have unwittingly become like one of those tiny sea creatures currently absorbing micro-plastics in every one of our oceans.

43 comments:

  1. Yes, it's a disgrace. Unfortunately every one of us is a sea creature with microplastics

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    1. If humanity could have its time again I hope that we would advance with more caution and more responsibility.

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  2. I would treat anything Mercola says with great scepticism. He is an anti-vaccine quack. I drink proper tea the Yorkshire way, letting it mash in a teapot. Dunking a teabag just isn't the same. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/9-reasons-to-completely-ignore-joseph-mercola-and-natural-news/

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    1. the plastic in tea bags is true and Mercola's views on vaccines are irrelevant.

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    2. If one investigates this issue one finds that the teabag companies themselves have admitted that they use polypropylene in their teabags. Most say they are seriously seeking alternatives. This is not crackp[ot scaremongering.

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    3. The Mercola quote was just accidental as I was looking for something to illustrate this post.

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  3. I didn't know that, we've always put our old teabags into the compost bin.

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    1. So have I. Now I am wondering if it is even wise to drink tea bagged tea.

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  4. What next? We are probably ingesting all manner of things we know nothing of.
    I shall look for organic teabags in the future.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Even the most "ethical" of teabag makers use polypropylen.e

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  5. Not to mention what it is doing to our stomachs.I recently had a GIST tumour removed from my stomach. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

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    1. It does make you wonder. Profit making companies will get away with whatever they can in the name of profit. Some health issues are very slow burners.

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  6. I saw this on the "one show" on the BBC.
    I told you I didn't like tea before but now I doubly don't like it!
    The only way around this is loose tea and a teapot,I suppose.
    Coffee anyone?

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    1. Water might be safe. Sometimes.

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  7. I rarely drink tea, but when I do make it for myself, I make a pot of it using the loose leaf. I find it tastes better.

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  8. Tea bags wouldn't work without it and unless you are making tea at temperatures >140°C I doubt you have to worry. Aluminium cooking pots are worse and Welding zinc coated metal is a real lung bleeder. Breathing diesel fumes and petrol exhaust is not recommended. Something is always out to get us.
    Is Jared better?

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    1. Lord knows about J.O'Mara. In this constituency we waited forever to get a Labour MP and we ended up with a muppet.

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    2. Told you he was a Scoper. You have got him, you will be brave to go up against the Corbtinstas. His mate Donnell wants to hang folk so don;t you dare lose the faith.
      PS, His middle name is Cain. Should have asked where his brother was prior to voting,

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  9. I was struggling to find what sparked those Mercola references, but your post did make me think. I found this article online that shows that not all tea manufacturers use plastic although the major ones do. I suppose the problem is that the manufacturing plant was set up before the dangers of plastics in the environment were fully realised and the answer has to be a major investment by the likes of PG and Twinings.

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    1. Maybe increased consciousness will help to put pressure on the teabag makers. I couldn't find ANY suppliers who are entirely plastic free.

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  10. Generally speaking I would trust a Which report on such a matter and unless The Guardian is lying (heaven forbid - I'm sure they learned from the Dag Hammarskjöld debacle) all the major teabag using companies admit to using plastics. As to how dangerous it is to us I have found no information but I confess that I'm a bit uneasy about the huge numbers of teabags I've used in my compost. These days I do use some tea in teabags (I don't think I've ever seen loose red bush tea) but I also use loose leaf tea. Most of the time I drink coffee.

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    1. From now on I shall break up the teabags before I put them on the compost. I don't like the idea of plastic in teabags but we often use plastic beakers or straws.

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    2. Is red bush tea the same as rooibos? Because we csn get loose leaf rooibos from our local herbal shop here.
      x

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    3. I don't know. I am a long way from being an expert on this subject.

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    4. Yes it is Maria. Thank you for the information. We have a tea shop (that sells tea not afternoon teas!) in Stornoway so I will check there. Otherwise I'll check when I'm down in Glasgow in a week or so.

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    5. Graham the Guardian always lies and their crossword is easy.

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  11. I stopped buying tea bags since I heard that the bags are also chlorine bleached. I use loose green tea leaves.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. Teabags are just so convenient. Big companies don't seem to mind what they do to make profit while governments stand idly by.

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  12. I am not so much a hot drinks person in the first place, but I like my regular mugs of coffee; one right after getting up, one right after lunch and a third and last one mid-afternoon. Tea is only when I am cold or have an upset tummy, the latter being a very rare occurrence. of course coffee has its own ethical issues... I try to buy fair trade brands but not exclusively.

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    1. As you know, we Yorkshire folk love our tea. In facrt we are addicted to it.

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  13. I just have never understood why people can't make proper tea. I make a couple of pots a day with loose tea and seems like it is always simmering away on the stove. And, it tastes sooo much better! That is for tea lovers like Big Bear and visitors that might stop by. For my coffee, I grind the beans and brew wonderful coffee every day. No big deal, as far as I am concerned.

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    1. I guess I am like millions of other people. I know how to make tea in a pot but teabags have been so convenient and quicker too.

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  14. My grandmother read tealeaves , great fun.....rubbish but great fun

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    1. "Sit down here Little Johnny and I'll tell you your future... I see a professor and an ark filled with animals..."

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  15. So the moral of the story is that loose tea is the best! I don't use loose tea but I remember it and enjoyed it.

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    1. Making tea in a pot is a significantly slower process.

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  16. Hmmm. Another plastic hiding place. Depressing and almost unavoidable, the plastic in our lives.
    Alphie

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    1. We can run but we cannot hide.

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  17. I like to make tea with loose herbs occasionally, and I found that a local Asian supermarket sells empty tea bags that are easy to fill up and close. I haven't bought any for awhile, so I'll have to take a closer look at their make up and see if anything looks plastic.

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    1. Sealed teabags are so damned convenient!

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  18. I did not know this! I've been composting our teabags, too. (Well, putting them in the compost collection for pickup by the council.) They say we can compost teabags, so maybe they don't mind it or it's such a small amount they feel it doesn't matter. (Whether it really does or not, who knows.)

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  19. Being a big tea drinker (in all senses), you've spurred me into armchair action. I tweeted the companies I usually buy teabags from. I find tweeting is more useful than an email to get a quick response from companies as they know 'the world' (i.e. their customers) is watching! Anyway, Yorkshire Tea responded "We started looking into plastic-free tea bags last year. We've now begun a second round of tests on some prototypes, and we're about to start some larger production trials. We should have the results of those by June." and Tetley said "Hi Brian, we’ve worked hard to ensure that our tea bags are 99% biodegradable, but we’re fully aware of concerns and are working towards more sustainable and biodegradable solutions for all our products. Kind Regards, Tetley"

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