BRITS live up to their tea-loving reputation, enjoying a whopping 60.2billion cups every year.
But with a growing awareness surrounding the public 'War on Plastic', do we know what's in our favourite cuppa? Let's take at a look at how we can avoid pesky plastic in our brew.
Do teabags contain plastic?
New research suggests that cups of tea could be contaminated with millions of microscopic plastic particles.
Researchers found a single teabag released 11 billion microplastics and three billion nanoplastics into each brew.
Polypropylene is used to seal around 96 per cent of tea bags sold in the UK.
Researchers from McGill University treated water fleas with micro and nanoplastics from tea bags, and found they displayed some anatomical and behavioural abnormalities.
Further research is needed to know if plastic from tea has an adverse effect on humans, but the initial findings are serious.
Which brands of tea use a plastic sealant?
Tea manufacturers are moving away from traditional paper bags and towards plastic ones.
Though you'd think they were just made of paper, most tea bags are often sealed shut with the heat-resistant plastic polypropylene sealant.
This non-biodegradable polypropylene can make up around 25 per cent of the bag.
Leading brands including Co-Op and PG Tips all responded to public pressure and vowed to switch to 100 per cent compostable bags.
It is not known whether the brands have made the change.
Lidl says its teabags currently use polypropylene, but it makes up just 1-2 per cent of the seal.
The supermarket is currently exploring the option of using fully biodegradable polymers.
Tetley uses thermoplastic for the seal.
Yorkshire Tea also said it is aiming to switch over to plant-based material.
It's worth double-checking the individual product as some brands have different types of teabags.
What tea bags can I use?
1) Paper and plastic teabags
Recycling experts advise you can still compost the teabags, but there are concerns they could leave microplastics in the soil that could be harmful to humans, as well as animals.
2) Compostable and biodegradable teabags
A number of brands sell biodegradable teabags, meaning you can dispose of them in your council food caddy without worrying about microplastics.
Abel & Cole and Teapigs use SoilOn, a corn-starch which incorporates biomass material (polylactic acid) originating from plants.
Other brands use purely plant-based products such as Clipper, which has launched a plastic-free, compostable teabag made from bananas.
While Pukka uses organic strings to hold the bags together.
It's important to note that any bags made with SoilOn bioplastics cannot be placed in your home composter or your landfill bin, as they need a certain temperature to break down.
However, they're 100 per cent biodegradable and CAN be put in your council organic waste bin.
- Abel & Cole
- Tetley's catering range
- Twinings pyramid range
- Waitress Duchy range
Teabags with a plastic sealant:
- Twinings 'heat-sealed' and 'string and tag' ranges
- Taylors of Harrogate
- Yorkshire Tea
- Betty’s Tea
- PG Tips
The greenest thing of all is just to use loose tea in a pot, or in a cup with or without a strainer.
Do this and you can very happily dispose of your leaves in a home or council food compost, without any fears of microplastics creeping into your soil.
You can also use reusable teabags, a tea ball infuser or just a good old-fashioned teapot.
If you're thinking about plastics in your teabags, you're probably not immune to the packaging all this tea might come in.
Nearly all brands are wrapped in some kind of plastic, either in the main packaging or around the individual teabag.
To encourage brands to improve their behaviour, email or tweet the companies in question and get them to reduce their plastic output.
Now for a cup of tea…
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