A spot of Plastic with your tea Madam?... Did you know a Single tea bag can release 11 billion microplastics into hot water.
Steeping a single plastic teabag at brewing temperature (95 °C) releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup of the beverage. (1)
We have all been aware of the effects of plastic on our health and the environment but some plastics are stealth little intruders and have been going unnoticed.
Tea bags, considered the easy way to drink tea, can harbour a hidden accomplice - plastic. Concealed within the layers of paper this blend of paper and plastic , in conventional tea bags, is a compromise that, until recently, went unnoticed by many tea drinkers. You may think you are using paper tea bags - harmless right? However even these paper bags can be sealed with polypropylene (a synthetic resin) even the string and label can contain nylon and other plastics.
Like most plastics, polypropylene is known to adversely affect the body’s endocrine system leading to health issues especially in women's health and fertility. "It can mimic the female hormone estrogen, therefore causing an overload of it in the woman’s body, which causes problems with fertility and conceiving." (2)
Even the fair trade unbleached organic ones can contain the same plastic.
With the very start of our business in Organic loose leaf tea during our own fertility journey its something that holds great importance for us. Ensuring our teas are Organic, Spray free and plastic free (which is why we don't have tea bags in the range - yet).
Even the more upmarket silky pyramid ones marketed as better for the brewing experience and the environment can be made from nylon (again a form of plastic) check out the image below of these fancy teabags after being in the compost. Eeeek!
We discovered this BBC series called Inside the Factory where you can see how standard tea bags are made. (3)
Image: Simple Ecology
A PubMed article (1) trialed steeping various tea bags, removing the tea so that it was just the bags. Revealing when steeped in hot water, plastic tea bags release billions of microparticles and nanoparticles, basically very tiny pieces of plastic that can be ingested and aren't visible to the naked eye.
An awakening to the fact that our daily ritual might come with unintended consequences both for our own health and the environment.
Image: Environ. Sci. Technol.
How Healthy is your Cuppa?
We don't fully understand the impact of these microparticles on our health. New studies are now raising concerns about their long-term effects on our health. The potential entry of ingesting microparticles can't really be beneficial to our bodies.
This revelation prompts a collective call for awareness, urging us to consider the broader narrative of our tea-drinking habits and their impact on the environment.
If you were composting your teabags thinking they were paper and compostable, there are some other options:
Best practice Use loose leaf tea, or source and buy bags which don’t have plastic in them.
Also acceptable (although not gold standard, this is still good practice): Empty bags, put leaves on heap and bags in rubbish collection.
If you really can't manage without your tea bags choose brands that don’t use bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, or polypropylene. Other great options are tea bags made from organic cotton, hemp, or certain plant fibers.
Some of the well known brands in the UK and the USA have taken this on board
Brands with tea bags that are plastic free:
Republic of Tea
PG Tips (Unilever)
Brands with tea bags that contain plastic:
Mighty Leaf Teas (now’s owned by Peet’s)
Use loose leaf tea.
We totally get that its not as convenient! its alot easier than you think plus its more flavourful and beneficial.
You can check our our range of infusers for every budget. However if you don't have a strainer you can use a cafetiere/French Press/plunger or brew a pot and use a strainer.
You could always go all out and let the tea brew at the bottom of your cup and then read your tea leaves when you are finished. I mean how gorgeous does loose leaf tea look compared to what you find in most standard tea bags, also Loose leaf tea is a more economical choice since it is priced by weight, while tea bags are priced per bag. You can also reuse loose leaf tea to make a second cup to cut expenses and waste.
You'll know that you are drinking a "cuppa" plastic-free and being kinder to the environment. Its a win, win really!