I am an AVID tea drinker! I drink tea for every occasion, every ailment, literally all the time! Tea is touted as a healthy drink and tea companies boast of all the health benefits!
Surprisingly, there are quite a few toxins to watch out for in tea. You not only have to look out for the pesticides and added flavorings, but you also have to watch out for the PLASTIC in tea bags!
I’ll save pesticides and added chemicals in tea for another post. In this post, I just want to talk about plastic in tea bags!
In this post, I’ll cover…
Is the plastic in tea bags safe?
How can you tell if a tea bag is plastic?
Which tea bags do not contain plastic?
What materials are replacing plastic tea bags?
Is The Plastic In Tea Bags Safe?
Short answer, NO!
Most tea bags contain polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or nylon to make the bags more durable. Polypropylene or PET is also how the tear apart bags are sealed and how the string is attached in some cases.
All kinds of plastic release toxic hormone disrupting chemicals and since tea bags are steeped in hot water, one tea bag releases billions of microplastics and nanoplastics into your cup.
Not only do plastic tea bags have a detrimental effect on our health, but they’re also detrimental to the environment! Plastic in tea bags is NOT biodegradable, so the plastic just accumulates.
How Can You Tell If A Tea Bag Is Plastic?
There are some tell tale signs that a tea bag contains plastic.
If the tea bag is round or square without a string and has crimped edges, it contains plastic. They melt the plastic in the tea bags to crimp the edges and seal in the tea leaves.
If the tea bag has a string attached by fusing it into the tea bag (instead of a staple or a hole), it contains plastic.
If the tea bag looks/feels silky (I’m talking about those tea bags that look super fancy and expensive), it is made of nylon!
Some companies add plastic to their tea bags to make them more durable, so even if your tea bag does not have any of the above characteristics, it’s possible it still contains plastic. Your best bet to find out 100% your tea bag does not contain plastic is to reach out directly to the brand.
What materials are replacing plastic tea bags?
There are multiple ingredients that can replace plastic tea bags. The ingredients I’ve seen the most are Manila Hemp, Wood Pulp, and Organic Cotton!
PLA is another ingredient in some tea bags however, I’m not sold on this one. PLA stands for Polylactic Acid. From the research I’ve done, they don’t seem as biodegradable as other materials and it’s possible they are harmful to the soil.
They also release lactic acid which isn’t necessarily bad, it can just be difficult to digest for some people. More research should be done on the safety of this ingredient in tea bags.
I’ve also seen “plant based material” with no other specifications. (Teatuila is one of the brands that uses “plant based material”.) PLA is considered a “plant based material.” Unless they further specify, I take “plant based material” as PLA which I would avoid personally.
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Which Tea Bags Do Not Contain Plastic?
The brands I am aware of that do not contain plastic are…
- Yogi: Manila Hemp tea bags
- Traditional Medicinals: Wood Pulp and Manila Hemp
- Numi: Manila Hemp
- Pukka: Organic Cotton
There are definitely more brands, these are the brands I have tried and they are available at Wegmans (my favorite grocery store.)
Which Tea Bags Contain Plastic?
WAY too many brands are still using plastic in their tea bags. A few common brands are…
Celestial Seasonings: Polypropylene
English Tea Shop: Nylon (Pyramid Bags), PLA (paper bags)
Tazo: Hemp and trace amounts of plastic
Lipton: I reached out to Lipton via Instagram and email because they don’t explicitly state the material on their website. In their response, they let me know they use “a small percentage of plastic” and “some pyramin tea bags made from PET.” They also said, “Where we do use plastic, we are actively working toward moving out of petroleum-based to plant-based plastics.”
Brand I’m Not Sure About
Republic Of Tea: Their website lists “unbleached tea paper” as the material for their bags however the edges are fused together. My guess was they contain PLA, but I reached out to them via Instagram and email. They responded with “Our tea bags are heat sealed.” They also said “Our unbleached tea bags are made from wood pulp fibers, which do not contain epichlorohydrin or plastic. Our teabags also have no unnecessary strings, tags, or staples and are free from chemicals, toxins, and do not contain gluten, GMO’s or corn.”
I did more research on heat sealable paper tea bags and they all seem to have something synthetic in them to make them sealable as paper on it’s own does not melt. The wood pulp fiber heat sealable materials I’ve found all contain either PLA or polypropylene. So I reached out again about the heat sealing and they responded with, “We use an all natural heat seal that binds the fibers of the wood pulp together creating a seal made without glue or chemicals.”
Take this information for what it is and make your best judgement. In my opinion, this sounds like PLA to me as PLA is touted as “plant based” so I’m not 100% convinced on this one. (I do not know for certain if they use PLA, this is just a speculation.)
Brand I Have Hope For
Buddha Tea: Their website lists “unbleached tea paper” as the material for their bags however the edges are fused together. I reached out to them via email and their response was, “Our tea bags are made from the cellulose fibers of the abaca plant (closely related to bananas)…Unfortunately, we do include trace amounts of plastic in order to seal the edges of our tea bags. Our team is currently working to make an eco-friendlier alternative this year.”
I’ll keep you posted once they do make a new teabag! In my opinion, I think it is great news to hear a brand is working on a better option! It’s much better than paying for marketing to trick customers into thinking their product is safe when they are using toxins in it.
If you want to avoid tea bags all together, a great option is organic loose leaf tea! Like I always say though, you HAVE TO check the ingredient label and make sure nothing extra is added to it (like flavorings and sweeteners.)
What’s your favorite brand of plastic free tea? Let me know in the comments!