It's no secret that we love to drink tea in the UK. A recent survey has shown that we get through 61 billion cups every year, resulting in almost 167 million tea being disposed of each day (according to teaandcoffee.net).
This raises the question... How do we properly dispose of those tea bags? The answer depends entirely on the materials used. In an ideal world, a small paper-like bag filled with herbs would simply be thrown into the food waste but statistics show 96% of the tea bags used in the UK contain non-biodegradable plastic and most of the big brand tea bags contain up to 25% plastic in every cup.
What is the issue?
Plastic is a synthetic organic polymer made from petroleum used in a wide variety of applications, one of which being the majority of UK tea bags. Under the influence of solar UV radiation, wind, currents and other natural factors, plastic fragments into small particles, termed microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (particles smaller than 100 nm).
Microplastics and nanoplastics are invisible to the naked and seemingly impossible to remove from water. Despite being so small, the vast quantity means there is a detrimental impact on the overall health of our oceans.
The negative impacts
Marine environment - Plastic causes hundreds of marine species to suffer from ingestion, suffocation and entanglement. As well as contributing to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt ecosystems.
Food and health - Invisible plastic is present in tap water, beer and salt. The chemicals used in the production of plastic are known to be carcinogenic and interfere with the body’s endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders.
Climate change - When plastic waste is incinerated, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which increases carbon emissions.
Tourism - Plastic waste is often found in tourist destinations damaging the aesthetic value and leading to decreased tourism.
What can be done?
As a modern day company, we believe that it is mandatory to make decisions prioritising increased sustainability over maximised profits. Therefore, our tea bags are made entirely from non-gm sugar cane and absolutely no plastic. This allows for full compostability and peace of mind that there are no microplastics or nanoplastics when ingesting.
As a consumer there are active decisions that you can also make to help reduce plastic use. Recycling and reuse of plastic materials is one of the most effective and easiest actions available to reduce the environmental impacts of open landfills and open-air burning.
Global concern and public awareness regarding the impact of plastic on the marine environment are currently increasing. To effectively address the issue of marine plastics, research and innovation should be supported. You can find out more specifically on marine plastics and how to help here.
Photography - @lilslenz
Styling - @lurkstyling