Brewing Tea with Zero Waste and NO Plastic! (Wait There's Plastic in Tea?)

Information about previously unknown secrets of home brewed tea has been making the rounds on social media, and some surprising facts are emerging. 

  • First and most shocking, there’s actually plastic in many of the popular tea bags on the market, yuck! 
  • Second, as a result of this, you shouldn’t be composting these tea bags, as you’re contaminating the compost with non-biodegradable plastics. 
  • Third, since they aren’t compostable or recyclable, they end up as waste in a landfill.

As someone who loves tea and has been (mistakenly) composting ALL tea bags for many years, this is very disappointing to learn.  It’s a step backward in our efforts to avoid plastics and move toward a zero-waste lifestyle.  Let’s take a closer look at these new facts regarding many tea bags.

Tea bags currently in our pantry

Tea bags currently in our pantry

Basically, you have excess packaging and hidden plastic all over the place.  Individually packed plastic or foil pouches are NOT RECYCLEABLE OR COMPOSTABLE, but paper pouches are. The big surprise: used tea bags are OFTEN NOT COMPOSTABLE because of the straining bag material.  Bags with paper filters, strings, and tags ARE USUALLY compostable, but sometimes the string is polyester (NOT COMPOSTABLE).  String less paper filter bags are usually sealed with plastic glue, which is also NOT COMPOSTABLE, along with pyramid nylon or polyester bags.

 

Our experience composting used tea bags

A few years back we received a very nice gift pack of fancy assorted teas in pyramid shaped bags.  We tossed those used bags into the compost, thinking the diffuser was biodegradable.  But no, they’re actually nylon, polyester, or some synthetic fabric, which are all plastics. Below is a photo of surprises I found last weekend, while potting some container plants.  The bag on the left spent about 6 months in the composter, you can still see the string (probably polyester) and part of the tag.  When using the compost, I always pick out any plastic junk that accidently went in (those little plastic stickers on produce are the worst).  I obviously missed one pouch and found it in a container that I was replanting (bag on the right), with plant roots growing right through the material to get to the tea inside!  This is what you get when you compost plastic!

Tea bags found in composter and container soil

Tea bags found in composter and container soil

 

A great article about plastic in your tea

The Green Shopper  has a great blog article, “The Compost Catastrophe or A Teeny Tiny Storm in a Teacup”, and the graphic below outlining these challenges in much greater detail.  They have links to a number of efforts to convince tea companies to clean up their act, please check it out and help support these efforts!

Infographic by thegreenshopper.co.uk

Infographic by thegreenshopper.co.uk

 

There is an easy solution to this mess!

The good news is we recently introduced a new set of organic cotton reusable straining bags, including one sized perfect for steeping tea.  This makes it very easy to still enjoy home brewed tea, while staying completely zero-waste and plastic free.  The main objective for designing this bag was to reduce excess packaging, regardless of whether that packaging could be recycled or not.  With the recent revelations about plastic contents in tea bags, there’s even more reasons to dump disposables and move to loose-leaf tea and reusable straining bags!

X-Small is perfectly sized for tea pots or single serving cups

X-Small is perfectly sized for tea pots or single serving cups

 

World's Best Organic Cotton Muslin Reusable Straining Bags

They’re sold in individual sizes and sets to match any job.  A special 2.5 oz. single-ply organic cotton muslin fabric, with a relaxed woven fine mesh construction, allows the liquid to easily pass while keeping it pulp and sediment free.  100% GOTS certified organic components – fabric, sewing thread, draw tape, and label.

 

Zero Waste, NO Plastic Tea is as easy as 1-2-3

Here’s a short video to illustrate just how easy zero waste, no plastic tea brewing can be. Check it out and get brewing!

Ron Czinski