Want a plastic free cup of tea? Pukka has been making these for over a decade
8th February 2018
Plastic in tea bags has been making headlines recently, leaving many horrified and posing questions around tea bag production. Here are some of your questions answered.
Why do some tea bags contain plastic and what's the big deal about it?
Some teabag manufacturers use paper and meltable plastic fibers (normally polypropylene) to heat seal the four corners of their teabags. Most non-Pukka tea drinkers are drinking tea from a bag held together by plastic. Yes, that’s 158 million plastic-sealed teabags used each day or 57 billion a year, leaving about 180,000Kg of nutritious tea waste a day that can’t be composted without releasing billions of plastic microparticles into the land and sea. That's a big deal.
What is the alternative and does a plastic-free tea bag already exist?
Established as an organic and fair herbal tea company in 2001, Pukka Herbs found a way to lock in all of the goodness of our high quality, therapeutic herbs in a tea bag without resorting to plastic. The solution…a stitch.
Pukka Herbs tea bags are double chambered (two sides, folded in the middle, cradling the herbs to freely infuse) and are stitched at the top of the bag using a certified organic cotton string. We were the first company to ever use this organic string to hold our staple-free and plastic-free tea bag together. Although a more costly and complex process, each tea bag guarantees that our Pukka tea drinkers can rest assured there is no plastic in their cup of tea and their tea bag is compostable as well as 100% biodegradable.
Can a biodegradable tea bag be plastic-free?
Speaking of biodegradable, don’t be fooled into thinking that biodegradable tea bags are automatically plastic-free. US standards allow for a certain amount plastic content when determining if a product can be classed as biodegradable. Many of the ‘pyramid’ teabags are either made from non-biodegradable nylon or a genetically-modified plant-based plastic (such as cornstarch) that only decomposes where there is industrial food collection.
What about the envelope wrapping the teabag?
Whilst not edible, you might also want to know more about the envelopes which wrap Pukka's individual teabags.
There are two main ways to keep a teabag fresh: wrap the individual bags or wrap the entire box. This is essential if you want to protect the high quality therapeutic organic herbs and essential oils. At Pukka we prefer to wrap each bag in an envelope so that once the box is open the other teabags remain fresh. The good news is, after four years of research and development we are now rolling out a recyclable polypropylene-free envelope across five of our herbal blends. And by the end of 2018 all of our teas will be produced in these recyclable sachets.
Whilst the sachet does still include a very thin coating of plastic to retain freshness and essential oils, it can now be put in your paper recycling bin. As the coating is now much thinner, this investment will help us remove over 150 tons of plastic from our supply chain every year from 2019. It will also mean that over 650 tons of paper from our envelopes can be recycled.
To further help global plastic reduction we’re happy for other tea companies to use the same technology we’ve pioneered. So if you’re a tea company who also wants to move to a recyclable envelope solution, get in touch and we’ll pass on the details of the organization we’re working with.