It’s no secret that the UK enjoys a cuppa.
In fact, it’s estimated the British drink around 100 million cups of tea every day – almost 35 billion per year.
If you’re part of the majority and are looking for ways to make your brew more eco-friendly, switching to plastic-free tea bags is a great place to start.
It’s a popular misconception that regular tea bags are compostable. Many contain harmful microplastics which are damaging to the environment.
Read on for Forge Waste & Recycling’s pick of the best plastic-free tea bags for a tasty cuppa that’s full of flavour and deliciously green.
Why don’t tea bags compost?
Up until recently, the only place to properly dispose of your tea bag was in landfill. This is because many tea bags have traditionally been sealed with a small amount of plastic made from oil, meaning they cannot be recycled or composted.
While the tea leaves themselves are compostable, storing them in tea bags that contain plastic eliminates any chance of them being turned into organic matter.
Even organic tea bags have been known to include a small amount of polypropylene, the plastic that helps with the sealing and tying of the bag. This compound is unable to break down, and small particles will remain in even commercial ‘green waste’ composting.
With the millions of cups of tea Brits drink daily, this leads to a huge amount of unnecessary waste ending up in landfill, a devastating impact on the environment. Landfills scar local ecosystems and release powerful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, speeding up climate change.
Plastic-free tea bags
Recently, we’ve seen a big push towards plastic-free tea bags, with many brands eliminating or reducing their reliance on plastic for a more eco-friendly product.
Some brands have switched to an eco-friendly tea bag that instead uses a polymer fibre derived from plant starch, called PLA. However, there has been some criticism of this material – the starch is often sourced from genetically modified crops, and still takes a long time to degrade in your home compost heap.
While using loose leaves and a strainer is by far the most sustainable option for enjoying your cuppa, plastic-free tea bags are still undoubtedly better for the environment compared to regular bags.
Are Yorkshire Tea bags plastic-free?
In a company update shared in September 2021, Yorkshire Tea announced that all of its new tea bags will be plant-based.
The tea bags can now be placed inside kerbside food waste and garden waste bins, where they will go to your local council for industrial composting.
Which tea bags are plastic-free in the UK?
As well as Yorkshire Tea, there is a range of plastic-free and eco-friendly tea bags available in the UK.
You’ll find many of these on supermarket shelves or in your local organic store.
- PG Tips
- Abel & Cole own brand
- Twinings pyramid range
- Waitrose Duchy range
- Sainsbury’s own brand tea bags
- Co-Op own brand 99
- Brew Tea
- Bird & Blend Tea
- Aldi Specially Selected Infusion tea bags
- Lidl pyramid tea bags
Home compostable plastic-free tea bags
It’s important to note that, while plastic-free, many of the large-name eco-friendly tea bags are still not suitable for home composting. Due to the manufacturing method and plastic alternative used, most still require industrial composting.
If you are looking for a tea bag to add to your home composting pile (and help with the making of gardeners’ compost tea), these are the brands and companies to shop for.
- Hampstead Tea
- Neal’s Yard
- Pukka Herbs
Tea bags that contain plastic
It’s also good to know which tea bags to avoid, especially as brands won’t be very forthcoming if their products do contain plastic.
At the time of writing, the below tea bags contained plastic.
- Asda own-brand tea bags
- All other Aldi tea bags
- All other Lidl tea bags
- Marks & Spencer non-herbal range tea bags
- Some Twinings tea bags – check the packaging
Reusable tea bags
If you really want to cut down on the waste of your brew, consider making the switch to reusable tea bags.
Reusable tea bags use loose tea leaves, which you can purchase at larger supermarkets, organic shops, zero-waste stores, and online.
In some zero-waste stores, you’ll be able to bring along your reusable tea bags and fill them up directly. This is great if you know exactly how many tea bags you get through in a typical week or month.
Otherwise, you simply use the reusable tea bag as you would a strainer, filling the bag with the desired amount before placing it in your mug. When finished, empty the tea leaves into your compost bin.
If you’re enjoying your tea without milk, most reusable tea bags just need a simple rinse, then a handwash after a few uses. If adding milk, hand wash it after each use.
Forge Waste & Recycling is committed to the safer disposal of your food waste. See how we can help remove rubbish from your home or business with our range of services.