Dare I say, we might be at a turning point? These past few weeks have seen such a huge number of articles, pledges and inspiring stories about plastic pollution that maybe, just maybe, I feel we’re starting to see the cultural shift that’s needed. I was really happy to see the recent pledges by supermarkets start tackling the eye-watering amount of plastic they use in their fruit and veg aisles, and the growing number of businesses that have pledged to phase out those pointless, pointless plastic straws. The cynical conservationist in me will, of course, maintain a raised eye brow until we see the actual proof- but it looks like going for the small changes may be the way to cumulatively change a lot.
In that spirit, here’s another small but annoying source of plastic we could definitely do without- teabags. But I can put those in the compost, I hear you say! Well, you can, but any time you do you’re contaminating that compost with non-biodegradable polymer. Let me explain: the majority of tea bags are made up of around 80% paper fibre, which is fully compostable. However, to make sure that the bags don’t split open, they have to be ‘heat sealed’- and to do this, manufacturers need the remaining 20% of the bag to be made from polypropylene -a type of plastic. After you’ve chucked it in the compost, that bit of polypropylene breaks down into microplastic- which, as we know, probably isn’t the best thing to be contaminating soils with at a rate of 158 million tea bags per day (from the UK alone!).
Thankfully, enough pressure seems to have built for tea makers to be looking into alternatives- both Coop and Clipper have recently said they’ve started testing other methods for sealing bags. In the meantime, this post over at Moral Fibres gives you a good overview of the current situation with different brands. As for me? I’ve switched to loose tea, which we all know tastes better anyway. I buy it over at Wilkinson’s, which is a bit of a Norwich institution and will refill my repurposed take-away containers, making my tea experience almost entirely zero-waste. It either goes into my favourite yellow tea pot, or, if I really need cheering up, into my manatea– genuinely one of my favourite things of all time.