Plastic free tea in South Africa

Recently, the inspiring Treading My Own Path posted a picture of a tea bag on Instagram and it got me thinking I need to make more people aware of the problem with plastic in teabags, not only for their own health and for the environment, but we could all be a voice together to try get companies to consider changing their ways. And if they won’t change their ways, let’s not support them? Did you know that your teabag probably contains plastic? Read more here.

Treading My Own Path
Pic from Treading My Own Path

We switched over to loose leaf tea absolutely yonks ago.  I am yet to be able to find the ideal unpackaged loose leaf tea in my area, but it is definitely out there.  We use Five Roses loose leaf tea, which unfortunately comes in a foil liner. I originally switched over as I wanted to avoid all the unnecessary tea bags, as even if they do biodegrade, lots of resources are used to produce that bag.  I then discovered that most tea bags actually contain plastic. Even more reason that I wanted to avoid them!

Click here to watch a video clip that Treading My Own Path shared on Facebook.  The BBC explains how teabags are made.

Using loose leaf tea is not a hassle at all.  I use one teaspoon of tea per cup, and I then leave it in the sieve and top up with 1/2 teaspoon for the second cup – so I am actually using less tea! It doesn’t take longer to make. I just shake the loose used tea into the garden.

 

So please do reconsider the tea you purchase and it’s packaging.  Treading My Own Path has started #plasticfreetea. Read about her Plastic Free Tea Campaign, and what we can do to try make change.

I am going to collate some info from tea brands in South Africa that I know of below, and will update it as I discover more, and as you help me with sharing your knowledge!

Wondering what you can do?

  1. Do you know of any brands that I have not included?
  2. Do you know of any brands of tea that use plastic free tea bags?
  3. Do you know of any shops in South Africa that sell loose leaf tea that you can purchase in your own or their refillable containers?
  4. You might consider joining me in making your opinion known with the brands mentioned below or any others you know of. Also, refer to this blog post for other brands of tea, you can make your opinion heard around the world! Let’s be kind and positive with our opinions though … 😉

Use the comments below to share your info.

Feel free to copy/paste/tweak the message below.  Remember #plasticfreetea in your Facebook, Twitter & Instagram posts.

Please will you consider creating your teabags without plastic.  Plastic consumption is damaging not only to our environment but to our health too. We don’t want plastic in our teabags!  #plasticfreetea

BRANDS OF TEA IN SOUTH AFRICA

Five RosesFacebook

10 July 2017 – After my post on their Facebook page they asked me to email them, which I did. Response via email on 17th July “The main compositional ingredients of infusion grade filter paper is comprised of a blend of unbleached long cellulose fibre and TCF wood pulp(s) with thermoplastic (eg. polypropylene) providing the heat sealable element. The material also contains wet strength resin which as the name implies imparts necessary characteristics to the web/tissue when the tea brew is being infused/ prepared. The product is tested in accordance with relevant food certification standards.”

Joko Tea (Unilever – also Glen, Lipton)Facebook

11 July 2017 – After my post on their Facebook page, they responded to say “The filter paper of the tea bag has a PE sealant layer.

FreshPak RooibosFacebook

11 July 2017 – After my post on their Facebook page they asked me to email them, which I did. Awaiting response

Carmien Rooibos – Facebook

17 July 2017 – They confirmed with a reader, Silvia (see comments below) that their tea bags are 25% polypropylene.

OTHER BRANDS

PG TipsTwitter

10 July 2017 – After my tweet to them they asked me to email, which I did.

 Yorkshire TeaFacebook Twitter

11 July 2017- After my post on their Facebook page, they responded with this email.

Thanks for getting in touch.

The tea paper we currently use is mainly paper – made from different woods but has a thin layer of PP (polypropylene) this is so the teabag seals on the machine. We have looked into a biodegradable /compostable polymer as the heat seal layer – PLA – (Polylactic acid) this ran well on our machines but the teabag fell apart in hot water – we have to test this!  

As new material comes up in this area we will look into this again – we also take into account other issue e.g. the carbon footprint and  food safety of materials used PLA has a higher carbon footprint than PP currently!

I hope that helps.

Then I got a second response from a different person within the Taylors of Harrogate customer service team.

Thank you for getting in touch and yes our tea bag paper consists of 75% paper and 25% polypropylene, this being a food grade plastic that is inert so is suitable for composting. We have tried a number of fully biodegradable papers however there can be significant sealing errors and this just was not a practical material when used. The current paper ensures that the tea bag has strength in the cup so infusing the water while keeping the tea within and it is also essential in the heat sealing process the tea bag goes through.

Right now this is the best option available to us when ensuring quality alongside our ethical commitments. We are pleased to be working towards a carbon neutral status by 2020, we have recently installed solar panels across the whole factory roof and are half way to planting 1 million trees here in the UK and in countries where our tea and coffee comes from. Visit our news pages to find out more of what we do and where https://www.yorkshiretea.co.uk/brew-news/category/environment

Thanks so much for taking the time to contact us and we hope this email offers some explanation.

Twinings Tea UKFacebook Twitter

11 July 2017 – After my post on Facebook they emailed with:

We appreciate the time taken to pass on your concerns, and we would like to ensure you that we do care about our packaging and its effect on the environment.   We are continually working to make progress in regards to the manufacture of our teabags. It may be of interest to you to know that our Mesh Pyramids are entirely plastic free.   In an attempt to produce a teabag that’s 100% biodegradable and compostable, we’ve sourced a mesh pyramid bag that’s derived from maize starch.   It’s spun in to filaments to produce a plastic-like appearance, but these do not contain plastic.
Our range of these can be seen below for your perusal:
https://www.twinings.co.uk/tea/loose-leaf-pyramids
https://www.twinings.co.uk/tea/teas-catering-foodservice
We hope this information is of help, and that you feel assured that here at Twinings, we do take this matter very seriously.

Twinings Tea AustraliaFacebook

11 July 2017 – After my post on their Facebook page they came back with a rather informative reply. Click here.

Clipper TeasFacebook

11 July 2017 – After my post on their Facebook page they replied to say We are always working hard to improve our packaging, and are actively looking for alternatives, so this is definitely something we are considering”


The Good Guys!

Tea Merchant South Africa

You can buy loose leaf tea by the refill from any of their stores!  Lucky you if you have one nearby!

Colombo Coffee – Durban North

You can also buy loose leaf tea (which is packaged in combo of card and foil and sometimes plastic too) at most grocery stores – Five Roses for example.


We can all make a difference but making changes in our habits and making sure we voice our opinions to manufacturers.  EcoAtlas also encourages us to vote with our wallets!

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9 comments

  1. I discovered this problem a few years back; my parents had a compost heap onto which they’d throw their spent teabags… assuming they’d decompose, except when we came to turn the pile over we found a heap of the empty bags still there (they drank a lot of tea).

    In my own efforts to avoid this, since suppliers don’t state what the bags are made of (yet they’ll state what the other packaging consists of, I too decided to switch to loose leaf tea, only to then be faced with the issue of “foil packed for freshness” which for me is near impossible to avoid. Comparing teabags that are foil packed to those that aren’t I notice no difference in freshness.

    One other benefit I have found from the particular loose leaf tea I buy is that I like it without sugar/honey, unlike the bagged variety from the same sourse, which I always prefer a little sweetened.

    Like

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