Tea drinking and Waste reduction

Ethical Koala Tea 01I was recently reading an article (I will try and find it…), which was giving easy ways to reduce your waste, and to encourage you to really consider what you are using, and what you are throwing away every single day. One of the points regarding coffee pods hit a nerve and got me thinking about tea bags….

Yes, my tea bags come in a recyclable cardboard box, but more than often I buy the smaller 10 packs, which again, are in a recyclable box, but are also individually wrapped in a paper/plastic wrapper. Begs the question – do they really need to be? I have a few loose teas, but I treat them as `only for special occasions’ since they seem to be more expensive.

Tea Bag Boxes: Packaging

Ethical Koala Tea 02Most tea bag boxes are cardboard, so easily recyclable (or reusable around the home), but some also have a cellophane wrapper – which goes straight in the bin – what a waste! Some brands individually wrap each tea bag – again, a complete waste. And then some also include a foil looking (but plastic) inner packaging. Either way, a shocking amount of rubbish.
I choose Twinings as my preferred tea brand. They have cardboard boxes; no cellophane wrapper and no inner packaging. (And they also have some very pretty illustrations on their boxes. Yes, i’m a sucker for pretty packaging).

BUT, they do still individually package the tea bags in their smaller10-pack boxes, and they clip the string and tag on to their tea bags. I still can’t comprehend why we need string on tea bags. As Lindsay writes on her blog article; The humble teabag: maybe not so innocent?, all of this extra waste and effort in manufacturing is there to

“save me the inconvenience of having to remove the teabag from my cup with a spoon. Is that not a tiny bit ridiculous?”

Well said Lindsay!

My current thinking is to speak to Twinings and ask them why they feel the need to add the string and tag… can we encourage them to remove it?

Tea bags: Composting

This article on the guardian.comTeabags targeted for new compost scheme discusses how 165 million cups of tea are drunk daily in the UK, yet most of these teabags used end up as landfill. According to Wrap (the UK government’s advisory body on waste), tea is by far the largest element of unavoidable food waste produced in the UK, and accounts for around 370,000 tonnes of waste every year. Tea bags can be placed in your food compost bin. I must admit, that I do not compost my tea bags… a habit I will be changing. Sad thing is we actually have a compost bin, but when we moved from a house with a large garden, to one with a small concreted yard, it didn’t seem so necessary. I guess in my head, I think that we don’t really have any food waste since we’re really good at eating everything we buy… but then i’m forgetting all the peelings and cores, etc. etc. Feel quite silly now. Ah well. Onwards and upwards. We are moving soon into a new house, where we will have 1/3 acre of land, so there will definitely be room and requirement of a compost bin!

So the short answer is, no there is no need for teabags to be landfill – they can be composted down. Get on it! I know I will be.

BUT. An issue with these teabags is that they are not always 100% compostable. A lot of brands are only 70-80% compostable, so can be composted but will leave little plastic piles in your compost bin, that you will have to scoop out and throw away. . Those fancy pyramid shaped tea bags are generally made completely of plastic, so cannot be composted at all.

Should I change to a loose-leaf tea?

With a loose leaf, there is no teabag or string or tag, so no concerns about getting a 100% biodegradable teabag. No additional packaging. It can be stored in a reusable container.

Won’t it be more expensive?

I don’t think it has to be… i’ve had a quick look in Coles and I can see they have a reasonable selection of loose tea, and just comparing the standard Twinings English Breakfast, it is the same price whether you buy a 50 pack of tea bags or 125g (50 serves) pack of Leaf tea. So in this case its a win, win situation.

However, just to be extremely fussy… the tea I drink everyday is Twinings Chai. Either the 50 pack, or the Chai and Vanilla 10 packs. Neither of which they seem to sell as a loose leaf.

I will now be making it my mission to source some Chai Loose leaf teas and experiment.  I may even try mixing up my own spice recipe. Watch this space.

A few pointers for the environmentally conscious tea-drinker.

  • Change to a brand of tea that is sold in plain paper packets
  • Change to loose-leaf tea
  • Compost your tea bags and/or tea leaves

Ethical Koala

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