Do tea bags contain microplastics?


This last week we received a number of questions from concerned customers regarding articles that were recently published covering the studies of microplastics in tea bags, conducted by professor Nathalie Tufenkji at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

This was obviously of significant concern to us so we decided it was important to further investigate the details of the studies conducted with the aim of seeking further clarification on the material we use in our pyramids.

The good news
The good news is that in the last 24 hours we have received confirmation, directly from professor Nathalie Tufenkji, that the study they conducted was based on regular nylon tea bags and not the biodegradable plant-based material we use at Love Tea known as ‘Soilon’.

Although this is positive, we believe there needs to be further investigation into soilon based products to have a definitive answer regarding our customer concerns of micro and nano bi product leaching.

Loose leaf tea will always be best!
Unfortunately, this investigation will take some time to conduct as we will need to engage a chemical engineer to complete further studies.

If bi product leaching is a concern to you personally, we recommend you switch to drinking loose leaf tea. Consuming loose leaf tea is the only way to ensure you are brewing only the tea and that no leaching from any type of tea bag (paper, nylon or soilon) is occurring. It is important to note that many paper tea bags will also contain a plastic lining to assist with sealing.

Personally and as a team, we don’t often use tea bags, loose leaf tea is what we love most. It provides the true essence of a relaxing tea experience with authentic flavours and the least amount of environmental impact and of course, this will also offer the best option to ensure there is definitely no bi product leaching from any type of tea bag materials.

What is the best way to make loose leaf tea?
We have a range of convenient and easy to use infusers that really do take any hassle out of brewing loose leaf tea. The lids for the mug infusers are great to use to hold your infuser at your desk, so you don’t have drips and the spring infusers are super easy to use on the go.

Why do we make tea bags?
We recognise that many tea drinkers prefer the convenience of drinking tea with a tea bag but most tea bags on the market are made from plastic or a synthetic fossil fuel base product such as Nylon. Therefore, it was an obvious choice for us to find a biodegradable solution.

We researched a variety of samples made with Soilon mesh and paper and after inspecting them for their taste we then placed them into our compost at home to inspect their compostability. What we found was that the bags did actually breakdown over time (approximately 6-12 months). It is important to note that the tea bags did take longer than food scraps and cardboard, we believe this is due to the many varied conditions of compost but particularly the temperature. The paper tea bags did break down faster than the soilon, however, we decided that having better quality full leaf tea (exactly as in our loose leaf range) in a biodegradable pyramid tea bag was a better option than having the finer dust grade tea that is required in paper bags.

Another thing we have noticed with our tea bags, is that because they are plant based and biodegradable bugs will eat through them to get to the ingredients inside. On a number of occasions, we have had issues with bugs eating through all of our packaging to get to the ingredients, such as chamomile flowers. As frustrating as this has been, it is comforting in some way that the bugs, will actually eat our biodegradable packaging to get to the tea. We have never heard of instances where bugs will eat nylon or polypropylene based packaging.

With regards to the plastic looking bag that holds the loose tea (or tea bags) these are actually paper based cellophane and not polypropylene like most other clear bags. These bags will also breakdown in your home compost in 1-3 months.

We allocate thousands of dollars each year to the packaging choices we make as our environmental responsibility is a priority to us. In addition to this, we donate 1% of our annual sales (not profits) to environmental organisations around the world who are working towards reducing the impact we all have on the environment.

Why did we join 1% for the planet?
When we reflect on the tea industry and more broadly commerce we found it was our priority to support and promote a global movement that is actively supporting environmental nonprofits.

It was a simple decision for us because as a small business, we benefit from the resources we take from the Earth so we should do our best to protect those very resources.

These ethics follow through to our personal lives and are shown via the products we choose to purchase ourselves, this is a responsibility we feel we will always be a part of. We are extremely proud of this, as there are many large companies who will choose profits over environmental responsibility and that is something we are not interested in.

In summary
We always encourage our customers to drink loose leaf tea, especially if they are concerned about the environment and potential leaching from tea bag materials. Loose leaf tea really is the only option if you want to make the best tasting, quality tea and the only option if you want to ensure there are absolutely no bi products from the tea bag material. There is also less energy needed to produce loose leaf tea, there is less waste, less packaging and as a bonus, it is more cost effective and tastes better.

As we are such a small family run business, the resources and time we have available to communicate this information are limited but that is one of the foremost improvements we are hoping to achieve going forward.

We look forward to sharing further information with you after we receive results of the testing on our soilon tea bag material for any bi-product leaching.

Of course in the meantime, should you have any questions or concerns, please let us know, it would be our pleasure to assist where we can.

Damien Amos
Love Tea