Teabags account for a huge 96% of the 165 million cups of tea drunk every day in the UK and many tea drinkers are unaware that these very teabags are sealed using plastic.

“Until recently, I had no idea that the teabags I half-fill my kitchen caddy with every week are sealed using polypropylene – a plastic! Although a small amount, it all adds up, and every year, around 150 tonnes of plastic waste from teabags accumulates in our environment – contaminating food waste or going to landfill.

My Plastic Free Weekly Challenge with Sustainable Merton was to replace teabags with loose leaf tea, using a tea pot or a tea infuser, as tea leaves on their own are compostable and biodegradable – so they can be put in your garden compost bin or in the food bin collected by the council.

It may be more convenient, and often cheaper, to buy plastic-lined teabags for a quick brew but the scale of the problem is huge and we all need to do our bit – including the supermarkets!

My challenges:

  • I can easily buy boxes of teabags at the supermarket when food shopping
  • Using popular brands of teabags is cheap for everyday brews
  • I like the convenience of teabags to make tea quickly and with no mess in the mug.

But these obstacles didn’t stop me… Off I went and bought a tea pot from a charity shop in Wimbledon. I already had a tea infuser if only one cup of tea was needed. I started looking for some loose leaf tea at my local supermarket, assuming I wouldn’t find any since 96%* of British tea is consumed from a tea bag. To my surprise they had various types and brands of loose leaf tea available. I discovered that the popular brand of tea bags that I use offers the same product in packets of loose leaf tea and it is cheaper but the packaging was not recyclable! So I continued the search and found that a competitive brand was even cheaper and with recyclable packaging.

Making tea the old way takes a bit longer but I soon realised that I quite like using a tea pot or a tea infuser. There is something very relaxing and charming about this. It’s less messy then using tea bags and I can live with bits of leaves at the bottom of my mug.

It was easier than I thought to switch to loose leaf tea. It helps reduce waste, including plastic waste and it saves water, energy, C02 and other resources needed to manufacture and transport the tea bags from cradle to grave. So yes, it seems possible to enjoy a cup of tea that doesn’t cost the earth.”

* Inside the Factory Series 3 Episode 1 Tea bags – BBC 2, 27 December 2017

Isabelle – Community Champion


Find out more about the fight for plastic-free tea…

An eco-friendly cuppa? Now teabags are set to go plastic-free

PG tips switches to plastic-free tea bags after 200,000 sign gardener’s petition

Remove plastic from teabags (petition)


Posted on: March 9, 2018 | Author: Sustainable Merton
Categories: News