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The war on plastic in tea bags

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…and this is why we are encouraging everyone to drink loose leaf tea…..

As a nation – we love a good ole cuppa and in fact, it’s know that we drink around 100millions cups of tea, each and every day. 

….but are we sure of what we are “really” drinking’….hence as a nation, we must think about the brands that we buy and consume due to the amount of plastic that has been found, in tea bags.

In recent tests carried out, Twinings, Tetley and Yorkshire Tea bags were found to contain the plastic polypropylene – which is unlikely to degrade for hundreds of years.

In a recent program aired on the BBC, “War on Plastic, the experiment that were conducted by the University of East Anglia subsequently showed that brands such as Clipper, PG Tips and Pukka tea bags do not have any plastic in them. 

The researchers, led by Dr Andrew Mayes, put liquid through the tea bags in to a sieve to see if any plastic was remaining which then gave the big reveal as to which brands passed the test – and which ones didn’t.

 The first to be put through its paces was Clipper, which boasts on its packaging that its bags are plastic-free. 

True to their word, the Clipper bag dissolved entirely, meaning it has no plastic in.  The same could be said for both PG Tips and Pukka.

However, in the test tube which contained the Twinings tea bag, a ‘plastic skeleton’ which looked much like a tea bag had remained and was pulled out with tweezers.

Dr Mayes said: ‘It’s dissolving away the papery part of the tea bag so that we can see the plastic skeleton that’s inside it. 

‘As you can see, other than being a bit more transparent and fragile-looking it’s like a tea bag.’ 

Ms Rani said she was ‘shocked and surprised’ by the finding. Her surprise grew when the Tetley bag was also found to be made from plastic. 

The presenter then herself checked the tube which the Yorkshire Tea bag had been put into whilst urging, ‘Please be nothing, please be nothing,’ but then added, ‘oh no Yorkshire Tea,’ when she pulled out the plastic remains of the bag. 

‘Oh gosh, look at that. This is not a good result for Yorkshire,’ she said. 

Dr Mayes said polypropylene is a plastic which ‘probably will survive in the environment for for hundreds, thousands of years.’ 

When contacted by the BBC, Tetley, Twinings and Yorkshire Tea all said they will be switching to fully biodegradable bags by the end of 2020. 

It comes after scientists at Canada’s McGill University discovered that plastic tea bags release billions of tiny fragments into the liquid when left to steep. 

The plastic degrades with time, breaking down into tiny micro- and nano-sized particles than can be over 750 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The researchers also found that water fleas exposed to the plastic debris from the teabags went on to grow abnormally and exhibit unusual behaviours.

The exact impact on humans of ingesting micro- and nanoplastic particles, however, is not yet known. 

Last month PG Tips, which is owned by Unilever, announced that from next year it would be ditching all plastic packaging. 

Its bags are made from corn starch and were first introduced on a limited range of products in 2018.

The tea company has also removed the outer plastic wrap on its 160-bag boxes with plans to remove the outer plastic wrap from the rest of the sizes next year.

Unilever says that the new plant-based materials would provide retailers with a product that ‘shoppers are actively looking for’ and help the environment.

A Harvard Business Review survey found consumers were five times more likely to buy sustainable products, which has prompted many firms to start to change lines. 

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