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Tea with plastic, anyone?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Did you know that most tea bags contain plastic? Manufacturers use plastic, commonly polypropylene, because it is cheap, durable, can withstand heat more, makes tea bags easier to seal, keeps the flavour in and lessens contamination. Tea bags with plastic are also less likely to tear.

On the downside, as is becoming increasingly better known, plastic packaging is from a non-renewable resource, and is very persistent, often not breaking down for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The little bits of plastic, or microplastic, then find their way into oceans, fish, water, soil, food and our bodies.

Apart from devastating environmental effects, such as killing off marine life and ultimately adding to climate change, what are the effects of having this plastic in us? Of over 4000 chemicals potentially present in plastic packaging, 63 have been identified as dangerous to human health because of their potential to disrupt hormones. There is conjecture that toxins and bacteria that may get bound up with microplastics would have an adverse effect on our bodies. The effects of polypropylene are largely unknown, and are admittedly probably more benign on health than many other plastics. While polypropylene can withstand heat better than other plastics, we would take the precautionary approach and not recommend heating this plastic, for example, in a microwave, because of potentially undesirable compounds that could be released.


Three types of tea bags

  1. Tea bags that are heat sealed (crimped along the edges) are more likely to contain plastic.

  2. Tea bags that are made with unbleached