A hot cup of tea can be just what you need on a cold winter’s day. But before you get cozy and take a sip, we’ve got some tea for you. Some tea bags are made with plastic and when those bags are submerged in boiling water, plastic particles might be released into your tea. Gross. It’s time to spill the plastic tea and stay plastic-free.
Are All Tea Bags Plastic?
You might have seen the headline, “11 billion microplastic particles in one cup of tea”. This headline grabbed the attention of tea drinkers, and for good reason. Earlier this year a McGill University study found that when plastic tea bags were dunked in boiling water, they released over 11 billion microplastic particles and 3 billion nanoplastic particles. Microplastics and nanoplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that you can’t see. But just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean you want to drink them! However, the McGill study only applies to tea bags that are entirely made of plastic, meaning the bag itself is plastic. Paper tea bags are much more common, but even paper tea bags can be made with some plastic.
Many paper tea bags use polypropylene, a type of plastic glue, to seal the tea bags. Because polypropylene is a type of plastic, when the tea bag is dunked in hot water, there is a risk of plastic leaching. So, while the bag might not release 11 billion microplastics, there is still some risk of plastic leaching from paper tea bags.
If some tea bags are releasing microplastics or have the potential for leaching, what should you use instead?
The best alternative to plastic teabags is to buy loose-leaf tea. You can typically find bulk tea leaves packed in paper or tin, allowing you to purchase tea completely plastic-free. Some stores will allow you to buy bulk leaves in your own reusable container. Just make sure you use a container that can be sealed to keep the tea leaves fresh. To brew loose-leaf tea, you can use a tea infuser, a tea strainer or even a French press!
If you can’t give up teabags, do some research on your favorite tea brands and make sure the tea bags they use are completely plastic-free. Some brands use plant-based fibers to make tea bags instead of plastic or paper. Common plastic and paper tea bag alternatives are made from cornstarch or cellulose. Do an online search for plastic-free tea bags and make sure to choose one that it totally plastic-free, but here are some of our favorite plastic-free tea brands:
- Yogi Tea
- Stash Tea
- we are tea
How To Dispose Of Tea
Once you’ve made the switch to loose-leaf tea or plastic-free tea bags, you can sustainably dispose of your tea. Loose-leaf tea leaves and many plastic-free tea bags are compostable, so rather throwing your teabags in the garbage, consider composting instead! If you do not have an at-home compost pile, look for a local composting facility to drop off your compost.
This winter, the only tea we want to be sipping on is plastic-free.