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I have recently decided to make a bigger push to reduce the amount of plastic in my life (thanks in part to this website) and have often found it overwhelming. So I decided to take Beth's advice and start slow and small. I thought I would start with tea. I realize that using loose tea pretty much eliminates plastic but sometimes I like using teabags. I was looking on this site about teas and didn't find much so I thought I would share what I did find. I was shocked to read an article that said many paper teabags contain plastic! And often times people have to pick out the plastic parts that remain in their compost piles from teabags. I had no idea. Anyways, the article I was reading said Bigelow is a company that uses no plastic in its teabags so I wrote them to confirm this and applaud their efforts. I also looked at some other websites to try to find out what is in their teabags (Tetley, Mighty Leaf, Salada, Lipton, Tazo) but without much success. I did find that the Lipton pyramid teas are made out of PET. Salada also had a nice informational piece about the impact of beverage bottles on http://www.unbottleyourtea.com/ (click on the good for the planet link on the left of the page and it will take you there) if anyone is interested. I wrote to all these companies to find out if their teabags contain plastic. I'll report back if I hear from them. Thanks to everyone for being so inspiring!
I’ll be happy to learn what you find out, Megan. At one of our local co-ops in SF, they sell some tea bags in bulk too.
Celestial Seasonings also sells plastic-free tea bags.
My problem is with the packaging. Tea bags seem to be either individually wrapped in some plastic-coated packet, or the box is shrink-wrapped in plastic. Please let us know if you find one that is completely plastic-free!
So far I have heard back from Bigelow, Salada, Mighty Leaf, and Tetley. Bigelow gave me a generic reply but I'm not sure if I was as direct with my questioning as I was with the others. So I will write them again to confirm.
Salada said this:
We have nothing using plastic with any of our products, tea bags or packaging.
Mighty Leaf said this:
Thank you for your message and your interest in our products. Our tea pouches are created from corn starch derived PLA (poly lactic acid) and they are compostable in municipal/industrial compost facilities according to ISO, ASTM and EN regulations. As such, it is not recommended for use in typical backyard composting due to the lack of high temperature and inconsistent conditions. All of our tea pouches are made entirely of PLA so there is no plastic used in their composition. The cello wrap is made from biodegradable wood pulp and the foil wraps are made from foil, paper and a small amount of plastic so since you are attempting to avoid plastic I would recommend our 15 count boxes rather than the 100 count boxes since the 15 count box teas are cello wrapped. The 15 count boxes are just color printed cardboard with no plastic added so those can definitely be recycled.
Tetley said this:
According to our manufacturer, the paper is a plain paper consisting of a specially selected blend of cellulose and thermoplastic fibers.
Eve, great idea. Also, if you don’t want to make your own reusable muslin tea bags, there are quite a few Etsy sellers who make them. Then, you can continue to buy bulk tea but steep it in a tea bag.
https://www.etsy.com/search/handmade?q=muslin tea bags&view_type=gallery&ship_to=&min=0&max=0
I've bought Numi tea before because it was organic and fair trade (though I don't think that applies to their entire product line). My packages don't have that statement, but I'll look next time I'm at the store. I've tried loose-leaf tea in the past, and never had good luck with it. Hopefully I can find plastic-free tea bags!
Holy Moly! Thanks for posting this! Why haven't I heard of it before? I know loose leaf tea is best for multiple reasons, but sometimes I just want to toss an affordable tea bag in a mug, wait a few minutes and head out the door. I liked Tetley's British blend. Now what?? [Image Can Not Be Found]
As to making loose leaf on the go – there are also biodegradable (I hope?!?) disposable papery bags you can buy and fill. Julsie, what trouble have you had with loose leaf? If its actual tea (as opposed to a tisane/herbal infusion) I found it helpful to get an actual “tea spoon” to measure the tea (you can get it from a good tea shop) and a tea timer. My timer is just some little hourglasses – so cute. If you have an iphone there are several tea-timer apps. Also, a good strainer helps. Something large enough for the tea leaves to expand.
Is it possible to make loose leaf tea economically?
Beth, have you posted about this before? Maybe there could be a “hidden plastic” post. Maybe if enough of us wrote the companies would stop using plastic in their bags. Oops, I guess that means I have to write Tetley. :(
My local tea/coffee shop carries small, short-handled wooden tea spoons at a reasonable price, so I bought a few and store them in the tins with my loose tea. There's something really satisfying about scooping the tea with that little spoon that makes the tea-brewing almost a ritual. Plastic-free, slow tea!
Adding to my note about Numi teabags, I have tried to dissect the wrapper — not the teabag itself or the box, but the wrapper around each bag. The outer layer is paper, but the inner surface of the wrapper is white and slick, which says plastic to my mind. In trying to peel it apart I can see a layer of foil but the layers are very well fused and I can't get them apart. The label states that the wrappers are made from 72% recyclable materials. It seems they are trying to do everything right — fair trade, organic, reusing recycled material, no shrink wrap on the box just a small piece of tape, soy-based inks. Why spoil it with plastic in the wrapper?
I can’t log in for some reason, but I wanted to post anyway because I stumbled across a brand of tea nobody mentioned here. It’s called Zhena’s gypsy tea. It comes in a metal cylinder with metal lid, and no individual wrappers around the tea “sachets.”. The only plastic is a plastic shrink wrap band around the lid.
BUT, I also ordered a sampler tin, which turned out to be four smaller tins held together with a plastic shrink wrap sleeve. Woops.
I emailed Tazo awhile back and I got this long (and confusing) reply:
“We’ve checked with our teabag suppliers, and they have confirmed that the only teabags we sell (our Tazo sachets or paper filterbags) do not use epichlorohydrin, and that when tested, epichlorohydrin is not detected in our Tazo sachets or paper filterbags. We understand that there is some confusion regarding epichlorohydrin vs. polyamide epichlorohydrin resin (Epiresin), which are two completely different compounds. Epiresin is used by the manufacturers of our paper filterbags (not our sachets) as a wet strength additive to ensure that the paper filterbags do not dissolve or break apart when steeping in a hot cup of water. Epiresin is approved for this use in paper such as tea bags by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies around the world. It does not break down into epichlorohydrin during the brewing process as confirmed by the non-detection of epichlorohydrin in the finished product.”
I’ve been drinking loose leaf tea lately, but I may look into buying a bulk bag if Republic of Tea black tea bags from Whole Foods or from Republic of Tea since loose leaf can be expensive.
Wow, what a tangled web they’ve woven with polyamide epichlorohydrin resin, which is, basically, yep, you guessed it …… plastic!!! (One web search for products made with the stuff yielded photos of biodegradable plastic bags). Researching this stuff is like studying chemistry, which tells me I don’t want even this FDA approved chemical in my body. Oh yes, it’s used in coffee filters, too. The only good news I’ve found on this one is that they’ve stopped making it with formaldehyde for food applications … at least in this country!
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