The Food Partnership gets loose (leaf) to cut plastic

Tea and biscuitsI don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on plastic in my tea. This may be a surprise to many, but most tea bags contain 10-20% plastic fibres to keep them from disintegrating in hot water.

We consume 60 billion cups of tea in the UK every year, releasing 2,400 tonnes of plastic into our waste stream, including landfills and compost heaps. The plastic fibres break apart, but take hundreds of years to fully biodegrade.

Many companies state on their packaging that their tea bags are biodegradable, but this is not the same as 100% compostable, which is the only guarantee that they will break down in your soil in your lifetime.

Time for a sea change in the tea industry

tea bags plastic

Tea bags made with plastic fibres and seals

In light of a mounting plastic rubbish problem, this has got to change. Tea companies can switch to plant-based fibres and offer more loose leaf options (or at least be clear with customers on materials used for their outer packaging and tea bags). While the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan is heavy on promises to cut plastic pollution, there is little on offer in the short-term, and we must act now to stem this tide of plastic waste.

This is why there are two campaigns asking PG Tips to remove plastic fibres from their tea bags, one on 38 Degrees and one on As the industry leader in bagged tea, PG Tips and their parent company Unilever can drastically change the environmental impact of our nation’s most-loved beverage.

We’re getting loose in the office!

Here at the Food Partnership, we’re an office like any other – enjoying copious amounts of tea, especially when a cheeky pack of biscuits appears in the kitchen. As promoters and supporters of the city’s Community Composting Scheme, we also know first hand that tea bags stick around and are a mess to sift out of finished compost.

We are looking at ordering loose leaf black, green and herbal tea, and bringing in tea pots and individual tea strainers from home. Loose tea is often the same price as bagged tea per cuppa, and usually makes for a much nicer brew, as bagged tea is typically finely ground and contains different strains of the plant.

Do you or your workplace want to go plastic-free for your cuppa? Here are our top tips:

  1. Check out this Moral Fibres article on the plastic content of your favourite brands.
  2. Choose loose wherever possible, and look for brands that state their bags are 100% compostable or 100% biodegradable.
  3. Try a local tea shop or retailer offering bulk dry goods and bring your own refillable container to cut down further on plastic.
  4. Sign the above petitions and spread the word among your social networks.
  5. Email or tweet your favourite brand asking them to switch to plant-based plastic fibres. See a sample tweet below for inspiration.
Sample tweet to send to your favourite brand:

Hey @teabrand I love your tea and want it to be #plasticfree. What are your plans to switch away from plastic fibres and seals? Please pledge to make #plasticfreetea bags and lead the tea industry out of this wasteful mess. #zeroplastic #blueplanet2 @btnhovefood


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