Tea Bag Material
Plastics and Packaging
The tea industry recognises the concerns of consumers in relation to packaging and plastic waste and we understand that the whole of the food & drink industry can, and should, play a role alongside other industries, in exploring opportunities to reduce, reuse, recover or recycle all types of packaging.
As a sector we are committed to sustainability and we are playing our part by voluntarily moving towards the use of biodegradable tea bags. The majority of tea bags sold on the European market are based on plant fibres, e.g. from the East Asian banana species Abacá (Musa textilis). Some contain a very small amount of plastic, which enables the bags to be heat-sealed and stops them falling apart in hot water. If you include the tea, typically about 1% of a UK tea bag’s total weight is plastic (around 0.04g) - 95% is tea and the rest is natural plant fibres, which are biodegradable.
The industry is working hard to move away from the use of polypropylene (PP) tissue tea bag and is switching to PLA tissue. PLA or poly-lactic acid, is a plastic made from plants, which can be composted under industrial conditions, so consumers can put these bags in their food and/or garden waste bins where municipal collection exists. We support the European Commission’s objectives under the EU Green Deal for harmonised waste collections and improved recycling infrastructure.
Microplastics are small particles of plastic less than 5mm in size; nanoplastics are even smaller, ranging from 1 to 100 nanometres (N.B. 1 nanometre equals one-millionth of a millimetre).
In 2016, EFSA identified the need to generate more data on their occurrence levels in food and on their potential effects on human health following exposure. Recently, international reports on microplastics and nanoplastics have been published, yet many of the food safety aspects remain unaddressed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that looking at current research they conclude that no reliable information suggests microplastics are a health risk for consumers, but more research is needed.