One examine confirmed some teabags typically depend on a substance known as polypropylene, produced from oil, to seal the baggage which causes billions of plastics to leach into tea and be straight consumed.
The McGill University examine discovered “that steeping a single plastic teabag at brewing temperature (95 °C) releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup of the beverage”.
In light of the research, and to tackle plastic pollution, many big brand tea companies moved towards creating “biodegradable” teabags using a plant-based alternative called bioplastic.
However, environmental group City to Sea said the term “biodegradable” can be “deceptive” when used in connection with bioplastics, which are often only compostable through industrial action.
Steve Hynd, policy manager at City to Sea, told Express.co.uk: “Most teabags will include a small quantity of ‘bioplastic’ known as polylactic acid (PLA) which can be used to seal the baggage whereas others are made solely of plastic.”
He said: “The solely method to be utterly positive is to embrace tea pots over teabags and use free tea and strainers.
“When customers hear phrases like ‘plant-based’ or ‘biodegradable’ they, understandably, suppose that they’ll compost their teabags and it’ll decompose like a plant would. This simply isn’t the case. They want to go to industrial composters with extremely excessive warmth and strain to break down.”
EU standards state that products can be labelled ‘compostable’ even if they can’t be home composted, which Mr Hynds says “provides an enormous diploma of confusion about what customers can and may’t do”.
If ‘biodegradable’ teabags which contain PLA are thrown in home composters, they will break down into microplastics in the same way conventional plastics do and will go straight into the soil.
Despite PLA being a bioplastic, it is still considered a single-use plastic and would take hundreds of years to biodegrade in a home compost setting.
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Mr Hynd said: “If you set any bioplastic that wants to be industrially composted into your private home compost, it is going to simply be like littering. It will simply break into microplastics and go straight into the soil.”
This means, similar to traditional plastics, it will “nonetheless be discovered littering our streets, we would discover it washed up in our rivers, we’ll see it being eaten by our fish and enter our meals system that method”, he warned, “it’s not the answer”.
Mr Hynd said: “It’s excessive time corporations dropped this jargon meaning nothing to most customers from their packaging and simply instructed us what they needed us to do with their product.”
But he said, until then, consumers could tackle the solution by buying loose tea leaves, which he says were “utterly regular like 15 or 20 years in the past”.
He said until companies are clearer about how consumers must dispose of the products, he suggests buying “your tea free and compost the leaves similar to our dad and mom’ era did”.
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The environmental expert noted how coffee is often packaged as a loose item and rarely comes in plastic sealed bags unlike tea, which he says “does not want to use packaging”.
International sailors are also calling for an outright ban on bioplastics.
In a piece titled ‘Let’s ban Bioplastics’ on their website, Clean Sailors outlines the case.
They wrote: “If you see the phrase bioplastic, compostable or biodegradable we advocate you substitute that phrase with ‘distractor’.
“These types of plastics promote a ‘business as usual’ approach to the plastic pollution crisis and do not address the main issue with plastic which is our overconsumption of plastic packaging and objects.
“In truth, labelling plastics with biodegradable, compostable and bioplastic has once more been proven to encourage us to litter below the misunderstanding that these supplies are biodegradable.”