A news report about plastic particles leaching from tea sachets and into teacups has been spreading online and through news publications across Canada, England, and the United States since the end of September when a research study from Montreal’s McGill University was published. The small scale study showed plastic teabags released as much as 60 millionths of a gram of plastic into a cup of tea.
News outlets seized upon the headline “You may be swallowing billions of tiny plastic particles while sipping a cup of freshly brewed gourmet tea.”
One news blog went on to say “The bags, which have been around since at least 2006, are sometimes called “silken” sachets. They can be made from hemp, corn-based plastics, nylon or polyethylene terephthalate. But most often it’s one of the latter two: plastics.”
That final sentence is not true.
PLANT-BASED BIODEGRADABLE FABRIC, NOT PLASTIC, IS THE INDUSTRY TREND
The trend is entirely in the opposite direction. Industry-wide, the priority has been to move to fully biodegradable tea bags – even though this material is five times more costly than nylon or plastic.
The only companies still using the outdated nylon fabric are a few supermarket brands who would lose their minuscule profit margins if they had to switch to more expensive biodegradable materials.
ELMWOOD INN TEA SACHETS USE PLANT-BASED RATHER THAN NYLON MATERIAL
This tempest in a teacup is irrelevant for Elmwood Inn Fine Teas customers because we have never used plastic or nylon fabric for our tea sachets.
We avoided the first nylon machines – which appeared in the US twenty years ago – and moved directly from paper tea bags to pyramid sachets using plant-based (non-GMO cornstarch) material in 2011.
You can toss our sachets into your garden or compost bin and they will eventually dissolve, naturally.
Our customer service team has fielded numerous calls and e-mails concerning these news articles. Please help us tell the full story that, while we should be aware that not all sachets are created equal, most specialty tea purveyors are producing tea sachets that are safe to use. When in doubt, call the maker.
Tea Maestro Bruce Richardson has served on the advisory board for the Specialty Tea Institute of America and Fresh Cup magazine. He has been active in America’s tea culture for 30 years and is a frequent lecturer at tea events around the world.