Day 12: Plastic Free July 2014

One of the things that I love about blogging is that I’m communicating…and people are communicating right back with me! It’s instant and it’s powerful. Take this plastic in our tea bags thing that I’ve been banging on about, for example. At first there were a few of us discussing it over Twitter and writing things on our blogs (initiated, I must say by @polytheenpam, not me), and now it seems that there’s a mini army at work, trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on with our old friend the tea bag! Between us, we are getting the word out that there is plastic in some tea bags, trying to work out which ones, and letting it be known that we don’t want to drink plastic tea!

The original post that @polytheenpam wrote on Plastic is Rubbish can be found here, and Lindsay of Treading My Own Path published this great post yesterday. I wrote a few posts mentioning the issue, and then tweeted Tetley, Twinings, Café Direct, Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips to find out if they use plastic in their tea bags – you can read more here (there is no update since then). Nicola* who tweets as @mehubbyandkids contacted @teapigs through Twitter, which she then followed up with an email. They confirmed that they do not use plastic in their tea temples, which they say are 100% made from a bi-product of corn starch called Soilon. (I added the link). They go on to state that it can take anywhere between 12 and 36 months to break down in a home composter. Jax Blunt who tweets as @liveotherwise contacted @LidlUK, who have said they’ll find out for her if their tea bags are plastic-free.

So, there you go – we’re on the case! If you want to find out if your tea bags are made with plastic, why not get in touch with your preferred brand? If you’re communicating via twitter, why not jump on the hash tag #plastictea so that others can see your progress. I’d be really interested in any new information that’s uncovered.

Anyway, my trusty tea bags have broken my heart, so they’re dumped! I’m hooking up with the plastic-free tea leaf now, and this morning I finally took a trip into Whittard in Edinburgh to acquire some. I left the kids at home with Daddy – assuring him that although this did, to all intents and purposes, seem like I was off on a lovely Saturday morning shopping trip, I was actually on a mission for Plastic Free July…

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Whittard on Princes Street, Edinburgh

I haven’t been to Whittard for years, but it was a lovely shop with the friendliest of staff, who were very happy to weigh out my tea, and give it to me in my own container.

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Selection of loose tea leaves

I hadn’t considered buying anything other than English Breakfast tea, but I reckon I might be more adventurous on my next visit.

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My tea, and a selection of strainers

I bought an open tea strainer from John Lewis for making tea in a pot, plus two individual tea strainers from Whittard for popping in a mug. I realise they are swathed in plastic, but I decided that this is the short-term trade-off to allow me to drink plastic-free tea, long-term.

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Tea strainers in action

Okay, so I think that’s enough on tea for the moment. I may revisit this topic with a separate post after July – short updates only from now on!

In other news, I think I’m still doing well in significantly reducing my single-use plastics. One indicator of this is our bin bag, which has taken much longer than usual to fill up. I have cut right down on things like yoghurt pots, biscuit wrappers and juice cartons (which are non-recyclable in my area, as far as I can tell). The children don’t seem to have noticed that some of their usual favourites aren’t making it into the house at the moment, and are enjoying the new alternatives such as more baking, freshly squeezed juice and rice, instead of pasta and noodles – which take up more plastic wrapping per portion.

I’m enjoying focussing on where I use disposable plastics, and on trying to find solutions. I’ll be off the blog until the end of the week, but will be back then to update on my progress. Good luck to everyone who’s taking part in Plastic Free July – we’re nearly half way now!

*A big thank you to Nicola for sharing the email from Tea Pigs with me, and giving her permission for me to use it in my post.

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19 thoughts on “Day 12: Plastic Free July 2014

  1. Pfft, these plastic-y teabags! I’m not convinced about the Soilon used by teapigs; anything that takes 36 months to break down – that’s THREE YEARS! – doesn’t really count as compostable in my book!

    Plus Soilon is a polylactic acid plastic (also called PLA). It’s still a plastic, just made from corn rather than fossil fuels. Another point to note: most corn is contaminated with GM. I think the claim 100% natural is a bit of a stretch – after all, fossil fuels are “natural”! Processing something in a lab using chemicals isn’t really what “natural” means to most people. PLA doesn’t decompose well (or at all) in home composts – it needs the high temperatures of commercial composters.

    (I’m not a fan of these biodegradable plastics – you can read why here http://treadingmyownpath.com/2014/06/26/compostable-plastics-and-bioplastics-and-why-they-arent-the-green-solution/)

    On the plus side, I’m glad you found your loose leaf tea! And the strainers – excellent – I see you have two, so if I’m ever in Edinburgh I can pop in and enjoy a cup of loose leaf tea with you! : ) You could write to Whittards congratulating them on their loose tea but lamenting the overpackaged strainers – you could also take the packaging back and say you don’t need it and ask them to pass it on to Head Office – that said, if you intend to shop there regularly you might not like this suggestion!

    Lastly, I didn’t see your hastag and have been using #plasticfreetea, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for that one too!

    Sorry for such an enormously long response! Hope you enjoy your Sunday sipping on delicious cups of loose leaf tea : )

    • Thanks for this great response – sorry, I’m only just catching up with comments! I agree about soilon, I’m a bit suspicious, it needs to be powerful to do the same job as plastic so I’ll be sticking to my loose tea!

      I’ve never thought about taking packaging back to a shop! But yes, I’ll get the kettle on if you come by Edinburgh! x

  2. Thank goodness for looseleaf tea. I’m able to buy it in bulk from a few different stores near me. Even if tea bags don’t contain plastic, I always wondered about the bleach used to make the paper bags white. I have no scientific evidence for this, but steeping paper previously bleached white might have residual chemicals on it. Or I may simply have OCD…

    • ha ha! I often wonder whether I’m being OCD or just questioning where others don’t! It’s an excellent point though and another reason to stick to loose tea 🙂

  3. I didn’t realised tea bags contained plastic, I hadn’t given it much thought and assumed it was a paper material. I am now wiser, thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: Day 18: Plastic Free July 2014 | westywrites

  5. Ah, great post. I see now why you were interested in my post on reusable muslin teabags! I had no idea there was plastic in disposable teabags. I assumed they were all compostable. Definitely something to consider. Thanks for the link.

    • Apologies for the late reply, I’ve had a blogging break! I did love your tea bag post but I do also check out your blog on other area too – great inspiration! keep up the good work x

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