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Which teabags are plastic-free in 2021?



Do you take plastic with your tea? Well, it turns out that depends on which brand of teabag you use.


Many people probably assume that teabags have always been made of some sort of natural, biodegradable material. After all, they’re paper-like in appearance and texture.


However, many teabag brands use hidden plastic to help bind their edges together, or as a skeleton for their entire structure. The plastic of choice tends to be ‘polypropylene’ which has a wide variety of other uses including for the manufacturers of tote bags, microwaveable food containers and plastic cups.


While it’s disappointing that so many teabags still use plastic in 2021, the good news is that the tea industry is slowly reacting public opinion on the issue, and most brands are the process of transitioning to biodegradable alternatives.



Here’s our guide to the teabags which are plastic-free in 2021:

Image: Unilever



Plastic-free


PG Tips: PG Tips was the first mainstream tea brand to ditch plastic completely, removing it from all its teabags in January 2020. Even better, their teabags are home-compostable, which means they can easily biodegrade in domestic compost heaps within a couple of months. The company has also removed the plastic film from some of its boxes of teabags, and hopes to do so for all of them by the end of 2021.


Pukka: Upmarket brand Pukka scores well across the board. Its teabags are made from natural fibres and are home compostable. Bonus points for their 100% FSC-approved cardboard packaging!


Clipper: Clipper’s tea bags use a plant-based plastic called PLA which means that they are compostable, but only commercially at high temperatures. They therefore need to be collected as food waste by your local council, and will not break down in garden compost heaps.


We’re fans of Clipper’s cardboard boxes, but sadly the company still uses a foil inner wrap which isn’t recyclable – it plans to get rid of this by the end of 2021.



Still contain plastic


Yorkshire Tea – Much-loved brand Yorkshire continues to sit on the naughty step when it comes to plastic. The company had planned to switch to PLA plant-based plastic by the end of 2020, but in their latest update say that the full switch will now not happen until June 2021.


Even once the switch is made, Yorkshire Tea bags won’t be home compostable. PLA plastic is only suitable for commercial composting services (such as those offered by council waste collection services).


Tetley – Like Yorkshire, Tetley is currently in the process of moving to plant-based plastic tea bags which will be commercially compostable as part of council food waste collections, but they have not yet given a date for when the transition will be complete.


Tetley’s soft packaging is currently not recyclable.


Twinings – Twinings has been in the process of switching to teabags which use commercially compostable plant-based plastic since January 2020 and hope to have completed the process at some point during early 2021 (its premium hot and cold ‘mesh’ teabags are already biodegradable as part of council food waste collections).


While its cardboard boxes don’t have outer cellophane wrapping, Twinings still uses inner foil wraps which are not recyclable.


Barry’s – Barry's has made the switch to biodegradeable material for 99% of its teabags in the last few months (since May 2021), and hopes to reach 100% by August 2021.


On top of this, all of the company’s tea boxes are already made from recyclable cardboard with print utilising vegetable-based inks.



Don’t forget local and smaller tea brands!


While there are far too many local or smaller tea brands to list here, it’s worth checking your favourites out to see where they stand on the issue of plastic and sustainability.


Dorset Tea for example has already made the switch to biodegradable teabags, while Welsh Brew still uses some plastic in its products.

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