Are Teabags Bad for the Environment?

March 13, 2018

Tea growing in a bad environment with trash all around


Are Teabags Bad for the Environment?

If you do a quick google search, you can find thousands of articles that promote tea drinking. Several of our blogs outline the benefits of drinking tea: improved sleep, weight loss, and even better dental health. But there are some downsides to tea consumption. As it turns out, some types of tea are actually ruining the environment. But before you consider giving up your tea addiction, it’s important to understand that it isn’t the tea leaves alone that are harmful but the packaging, AKA teabags.

The Problem with Tea Bags

Tea bags with strings inside of a glass teacup.

This leads to one serious question. Are tea bags bad for the environment? In short, yes. But this doesn’t mean that you have to stop drinking tea altogether. Instead, you can transition to a more environmentally friendly tea that gives you all of the benefits of tea without the harmful teabags.

Environmentally Friendly Teabags: Do They Exist?

Activists across the world are fighting tough environmental issues. Some are trying to save endangered species; many are working to prevent global working, while others are spreading knowledge of environmental hazards. One of the biggest environmental wastes? Teabags.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Out of all of the waste products in the world, people are worrying about tea bags being bad for the environment? Although each individual teabag might not seem like a big deal, when you think about the fact that millions of teabags are used every day, the issue becomes clear. Especially when you consider the fact research shows even environmentally friendly teabags are only 70 to 80 percent biodegradable.

Other Thoughts

While most of the teabag material will break down eventually and transition into soil, the other 20-30% of the product is made of plastic. Since plastic products can’t fully break down once they are disposed of, they negatively impact the environment. The result: huge amounts of waste added to landfills around the globe. These small bags with wrappers and stringed tags at each end are polluting the ocean as well.  Individual teabags in a bogs with tags on each end.

The Environmental Audit Committee listed these bags as one of the main things polluting our water systems because of their non-recyclable components. The result? Over 100 million plastic related marine animal deaths per year.  

Other Options

So what can tea drinkers do instead of buying teabags if totally environmentally friendly teabags don’t exist? The simple answer is to drink loose leaf tea.

Since tea drinkers tend to be creatures of habit, this can be a hard sell. But the idea isn’t really far-fetched. Before the 1950s, almost all tea was sold loose instead of in teabags. The switch to individually wrapped tea made the product more convenient, but at what cost?

If you’re concerned about the environment and want to reduce waste, instead of buying individually bagged tea, buy loose leaf. There’s no loss of flavor, only a difference in packaging and preparation. Many green companies like Physique Tea are offering reusable strainers in place of teabags so there’s little mess and no plastic waste.

Two Physique Tea products loose leaf tea inside eco friendly packaging.The Physique Tea packaging is also environmentally friendly (minimal dry packaging) and the workers creating the products either telecommute or live within walking distance of work, cutting down even more on their carbon footprint. But it wasn’t always this way. Physique Tea used to have large silk teabags, with large wrappers and stickers on the wrappers. Each box included 15 of these silk teabags were placed in an organza bag during production and then the box was sealed with a sticker.

After realizing how harmful this type of packaging is to the environment, Physique reduced packaging by cutting the silk bag in half and subsequently the clear envelope that the sachet came in. The non-recyclable sticker was replaced with a card insert made from recycled paper. Not feeling these changes were enough, Physique Tea went even further, discontinuing the single wrapped sachets and moving to loose leaf tea. Reusable strainers are offered with most products as well.Physique tea metal reusable tea strainer                                                                                                                     The green efforts will continue, as production transitions to bulk buy products geared towards repeat customers. Fewer boxes equaling less waste. By supporting tea companies that have moved away from teabags, you can enjoy a delicious cup of tea without creating a negative environmental impact.

Are you considering switching from teabags to loose leaf tea? Share your thoughts and questions with me on social media. I’d love to answer any questions you may have about the benefits of loose leaf tea when compared to tea inside of little paper tags with strings.

                     Green healthy earth world with trees sitting inside cupped hands

And as always, have a beauTEAful day,


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