Day 10: Plastic Free July 2014

I’m loving some of the blog comments and tweets that have been coming to me over the last few of days, in response to the issue of tea bags containing plastic. If you’re new here then – that’s right, plastic in the ACTUAL BAG! I’m sorry…

Some of us Plastic Free July-er’s got into discussions about this (initiated by @polytheenpam) just as the challenge was about to kick off. The issue’s rumbled on a bit, raising questions such as, do you have to give up tea bags to go plastic-free? Is there plastic in all tea bags? Is plastic in tea safe? It’s caused a bit of a storm or – as my other half is calling it – a storm in a teacup…!

Anyway, yesterday I decided that I needed to investigate this issue a bit further. Coincidentally, I had retweeted this old post out earlier in the day on the subject of asking companies for what you want regarding plastic-free products. I had received some positive comments from those who had read it, saying that they were either doing this, or felt they should do this more. @AnnaPitt got straight on the issue and tweeted Sainsburys, to ask if they were planning to phase out their non-recyclable plastic packaging. Wow great, I thought – how quick and easy is that?!

Inspired, I looked up online some of the tea bag manufacturers that I could think of. My plan was to email them all with the same simple questions, and then collate their responses to share here on the blog. The problem was though, that some of them didn’t clearly display their email addresses, one would let me comment through a page where you left your question, and another wanted all sorts of personal information with my enquiry. It was all shaping up to be a long drawn out process, and my enthusiasm for the task was waning.

So I thought of Anna, and composed a quick tweet which I sent out to the following companies not long before 9pm last night – here’s my progress to date (apologies for the quality of the screenshots)


photo (15)
No reply so far


photo (14)
No reply so far

Café Direct

photo (12)
Response received

photo (9)

Yorkshire Tea 

photo (13)

Response received

photo (11)

 Fast response, to the point!

PG Tips

photo (8)

Response received

photo (10)

So I decided to phone, just before 2pm today on the number given*. I got to speak to someone 7 minutes and 25 seconds later. The woman who answered asked me how she could help, so I explained that I wanted to know if there was plastic in tea bags. She wondered if I was asking for composting purposes, I explained I was more interested in the health aspect. I was put on hold for a short time, and then she returned with the information that there is a small amount of plastic in the tea bags to hold the bag together, but that it shouldn’t cause health issues. The conversation went on, and I think she said that the bag is made up of 0.02% plastic, but I can’t be sure. I then asked if there was information on the internet about this issue that I could read. I was put on hold again and she said that there should be a small amount of information on the PG Tips website about how tea bags are made. I thanked her and hung up. The call lasted around 12.5 minutes.

Phew! So there were go, there’s plastic in the bags of the two companies who answered my question, with three responses hopefully to come. For the record, I don’t care if the plastic in the tea bag shouldn’t cause health issues – I don’t want to drink any plastic! If you’ve contacted any companies on this issue, I’d love to know how they responded.

Oh, and look what was delivered this morning! My first glass bottle of milk to pour in my tea!

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*I took copious notes during the call, so hopefully have accurately conveyed the gist of the conversation but obviously not the full script!

11 thoughts on “Day 10: Plastic Free July 2014

  1. I’m currently talking to our council recycling officer about this issue, since we have a doorstep food waste collection and obviously people will be putting their teabags in there.

    • Fab! I think the general advice is to put them in the compost anyway but I’d be interested to hear what they say… Not that it’ll matter to me, I’m changing to tea leaves!!

      • Well, so far she’s said she thinks it’s not a problem because of the combination of heat, microbes, and maceration. But since the polypropylene won’t get broken down by the heat or microbes (as far as I know), it seems to me that what’ll happen is the plastic will get shredded and included in the resulting compost. I don’t know if this is a problem or not — but if it is a problem, then it’s going to be difficult or impossible to remove these tiny pieces of plastic from the soil once the compost is used.

        I think the advice to put them in the compost anyway is because a home composter will see the resulting plastic residue and be able to pick it out, which isn’t the case with industrial composting.

      • Hmmm, thanks for that. Doesn’t sound like there’s totally satisfactory solution…except that everyone changes to tea leaves….

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