Why biodegradable tea bags are not the answer

2020 was the year of the biodegradable tea bag (amongst other not too brilliant things).

A number of big brand tea companies launched biodegradable tea bags to redeem themselves after tea drinkers worldwide were hit with ugly headlines; their tea bags have been infusing microplastics, polluting our bodies and our planet...

So are biodegradable bags the answer? We don't think so.

We’re not arguing that removing non-biodegradable plastics is a bad thing. But even a biodegradable tea bag is not environmentally sustainable. Precious natural resources are still being used for a single dunk.

Trees and forests are cut down for paper. Monoculture crops like corn are made into plastic and cynically called “silken”.

Trees are much better for biodiversity, not paper.

Polypropylene is still used to seal plenty of bags, even if the majority of the bag is “plant-based”, leading to confusing statements such as “99% plastic free”.

No plastic here, just tea.

Companies are even more cynical about their bags being compostable. Soilon (a popular tea bag replacement material) takes up to 18 months to compost, and isn’t suitable for food waste compost.

Some bags are actually only industrially compostable with high heat and pressure needed. Is your compost heap a constant temperature? Didn’t think so!

And it doesn’t all happen by magic - industrial chemicals are used to convert the raw materials which then need to go somewhere. That's an awful lot of unnecessary waste.

This might sound quite radical... but what if we just cut the tea bags out altogether?

The teapot is a millennia-old piece of technology that makes a rather lovely home for beautiful tea leaves. Not only is it free of microplastics, it is the antithesis of single-use and can last many lifetimes.

Rare Tea Glass Teapot

Rare Tea Leaf Teapot

So how do we convert our bag-loving friends and family? Give them a teapot and some loose leaf tea. A teapot will not only do a little good for the planet, but it brings a little more joy and beauty into our lives (not to mention loose leaf tea tastes better).

Help us bin the bags (even the biodegradable ones), and make tea truly sustainable.

Always loose, never baggy.


All the best,

Image Henrietta Lovell
Rare Tea Lady
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Since 2000 Henrietta has been travelling the world, working directly with independent tea gardens, from the Shire Highlands of Malawi to the foothills of the Himalayas. Lovell is at the forefront of the tea revolution. She founded Rare Tea Company in 2004 to champion responsible and ethical relationships direct with farmers. In 2016 she founded Rare Charity pledging a direct percentage of Rare Tea revenue to their partner farms, supporting tertiary education scholarships. In 2019 Faber & Faber published her first book – "Infused - Adventures in Tea", named the New York Times book of the year and was awarded the prestigious Fortnum & Mason award. She is currently working on a documentary series.