Home ยป Waste-free Living ยป Tea bags and plastic

Tea bags and plastic

The more I learn about living a zero-waste life the more I am discovering just how much waste we produce as a race. While I am aware that not all plastic is bad or should be eliminated there are so many instances where it can be reduced if not eliminated completely. Tea bags are one of those areas. I have not done research into why tea bags replaced loose tea leaves, but I suspect it was for the perceived convenience and ease of packaging to sell to the masses. Up until recently we have been throwing our tea bags into the compost pile, which would be fine if we used only tea bags that contained no plastic. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I had briefly read that tea bags do contain plastic but hadn’t thought much of it until I watched a BBC video on Facebook recently. You can watch it here. It is a very scientific video that shows just how much plastic is in each and every tea bag we use, basically making composting them futile. You can also watch this video, it also shows you how the bags are made.

One of the brands we support, Unwrapped Co, also shared a post on Instagram about how harmful tea bags are not only to the environment but also to our bodies because we are ultimately ingesting some of the plastic from the tea bags!

I found this article that Life Lived Simply did in 2017. She reached out to the major South African tea brands to find out if their bags contained plastic. I have not, yet, reached out to any of these brands to find out if they have made any changes to this.

So, what is the solutions?

There are two solutions;

  • Educate yourself about what brands use plastic in their tea bags and avoid them! (I will be reaching out to the brands we have been using and let you all know what they say.)
  • Switch to loose tea leaves. We are experimenting with this.

Switching to loose tea leaves

Rooibos tea from Unwrapped Co

Kiara drinks a lot of herbal teas and I have raised all 4 of them on rooibos tea so we always have some or other herbal tea in our home.

Our biggest challenge with switching over to tea leaves has been access. I am all about convenience and thanks to lockdown I am now all about shopping online. Finding brands that offer a range of herbal tea leaves has been challenging.

Unwrapped Co does have rooibos tea and green tea in their range of tea leaves so we have now made the switch to loose rooibos tea and while we are still getting used to it, the change has been super easy.

Our biggest challenge with the rooibos is the little leaves that escape from the tea strainer. It is quite fine so some of them do escape. The little kids are still adjusting to that, but it has not stopped them from drinking their tea.

I popped into the Refillery earlier this week, they had an Apple Crumble tea that I bought for Kiara to try out. She loved it, so we will add that one to our list.

Apple Crumble Tea from the Refillery

Tips for switching to loose tea leaves

  • Most of the research I have done says you can even use the leaves more than once. Before you throw them out, make another cup
  • If you really can’t deal with the loose “bits” try a plunger. A few people have said that it works well and leaves no bits in your tea.
  • Collect all your tea leaves and once a week sprinkle them into your indoor plants or flower beds! If you are adding compost to your garden, mix the tea in with the compost.
  • You can sprinkle the used leaves onto your chopping boards, they will absorb odours. Leave for a while and then scrub as per normal.
  • Rooibos leaves will make a stunning face scrub!

We are now on a mission to find a brand/s that offer different herbal tea leaves. So if you have made this switch or do use tea leaves, please share the brands you are using.



  1. 26 October, 2020 / 3:12 pm

    I wasn’t aware of this until I watched that documentary too, it’s frightening! I’ve switched to Clipper teabags (in the UK) who are currently the only brand that use completely compostable plastic free bags. Others are in the mix but not there yet. Here’s hoping we can all make the shift to zero waste living!

  2. LaRena Fry
    26 October, 2020 / 9:00 pm

    Love learning how to be more eco friendly. Thanks for sharing.


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