Your guide to plastics in tea bags

Plastic-free tea bags are the latest household item to go to the top of the eco-friendly shopping list, thanks to a study conducted by researchers at McGill University in Montreal in Canada.

The team found that steeping a single plastic tea bag for five minutes at 95°C releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into your cup. That’s more than we ingest from just about anything else.

In the study, researchers revealed that “the levels of nylon and polyethylene terephthalate particles released from the teabag packaging are several orders of magnitude higher than plastic loads previously reported in other foods.”

>> Listen to Liz’s Friday Five episode where she explains more about this study and the plastic hiding in our tea

But where is this plastic coming from?

One place to look is the recent rise in luxury nylon mesh teabags. The premise of these bags is that the silky premium pyramid design gives tea leaves room to brew. They claim to create a fancier brew, without all the mess that loose leaf brings. When it comes to premium ‘silky’ teabags check the label to ensure you aren’t buying nylon teabags.

Along with these premium teabags, many standard tea bags we buy contain polypropylene – a sealing plastic that stops tea bags from falling apart. This plastic isn’t recyclable or biodegradable and releases microplastics when it’s put in hot water.

Even when you put all your used tea bags in the food waste or compost heap, it can lead to plastic pollution, as it’s not all broken down.

Thankfully, there are a few brands out there shunning the use of plastic in tea bags – ideal if you’re not quite ready to convert to loose leaf.

And for those who are loose leaf fans, check out Liz’s homemade tea blends for delicious and healthy inspiration.

Plastic-free tea bags

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