Are Traditional Tea Bags A Sustainable Way To Drink Tea?

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It’s a well-known fact that the Brits love a cuppa tea; it’s thought that 84% of their population enjoys drinking it. This approximately equates to 100 million cups daily, which is crazy for such a small county.

But, is this drinking habit causing any problems, and if so, what’s the solution? 

Are Tea Bags Eco Friendly?

It might not seem like it, but tea bags aren’t as eco-friendly as you might expect. The problem is they aren’t always biodegradable, which might seem strange just by looking at them.

The thing is:

Some of the biggest brands on the market are using polypropylene to seal the bags. This is because it can withstand the heat better than standard glue.

This makes the tea bags unsuitable for composting, even though some people would argue it’s okay. When the tea bags are disposed of, the plastic derivative can leach into the soil, which is causing extreme harm to the planet.

To make it worse:

Some tea bags are made entirely from plastic, which isn’t just damaging the planet; it’s also damaging your health.

It’s suggested that when these tea bags are heated, billions of microplastic particles are left behind. Which you end up ingesting, this is thought to cause several health problems, including:

  • Fertility issues
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects 

And once you’ve discarded the tea bag, it doesn’t get any better. It’s improbable the plastic will biodegrade. 

Quite often, the plastic starts to break down and then is washed away in the rain. It then makes its way into the water system.

It either pollutes the water system further or is eaten by small fish. The fish will either die or be caught by a fisherman, meaning we eat the plastic infested fish.

This is why it’s so important to think about which brands of tea you’re drinking. So, here are some brands you should stay away from:

  • Yorkshire Tea
  • Tetley
  • PG Tips
  • Twinings

The teabags mentioned above use plastic to seal the bags. You should also watch out for some premium bags that are using plastic to make the bag.

You can tell the difference; they usually have a glossy shine to it. So, what’s the answer?   

How Can We Drink Tea Sustainably?

The best way to enjoy your favorite drink in a sustainable manner is to switch to reusable tea bags. They’re the most eco-friendly alternative because they provide the sustainability that traditional tea bags can’t.

The bags are made with various materials and can be reused endlessly. But more importantly, they don’t cause you any damage.  

So, let’s take a more in-depth look into reusable tea bags, and what you should look for when buying a set.

Reusable Tea Bag Buying Guide

There are quite a few things you need to think about before you purchase your reusable tea bags. So here are some things most people look for:  


You have a few options when it comes to the material, so let’s take a look at each one:

  • Stainless Steel – Usually made with 304 food-grade steel, which means no harmful chemicals. It’s also super strong so it can be used endlessly, which makes them a very popular choice.
  • Silicone – It’s an extremely durable material that is food safe and heat resistant. Again, this results in no chemicals leaching into your drink.
  • Cotton – It might not be the best material, but it’s a lot better than plastic. Make sure the bags are made with organic cotton, so you know there are no harmful chemicals.

Which material you choose is down to you, but cotton has less effect on the taste from personal experience.


If you have a budget, make sure you check out the prices; on average, the cotton tea bags are cheaper and come with more in the pack.

Stainless steel lasts for longer, but is harder to manufacture, which is why it’s got a higher price point, and why you receive fewer in the pack.


This is something you have to think about if you’re going for cotton tea bags. The problem is, some manufacturers will bleach the cotton to give it a beautiful white finish.

When cotton is bleached, it has the potential to cause harm to your body, which is why it’s worth checking out.


Some of the tea bags can be pretty large, so it’s best to check the size; you don’t want the bag filling half of your mug.

Cotton tends to be the largest out of them all; the most reasonable sized tea bags tend to be silicone. 


Each manufacturer will offer varying quantities, and depending on your drinking habit, it will depend on how many you need. 

If you go for cotton, try to go for a higher quantity pack, it saves you having to wash them too frequently. 

Keeping Your Reusable Tea Bags Clean

Keeping your reusable tea bags clean is the most crucial part; if you don’t clean them correctly, they could build up with bacteria or mold.

Here’s how you clean them:

  1. Empty all the empty grinds into the compost bin or trash bin
  2. Turn the bag inside and rinse out any leftover pieces with warm water.
  3. Leave the bag to dry in an open area.
  4. After a couple of uses, use a spot of dish soap to get rid of grime. Make sure you thoroughly wash out the soap, so it doesn’t alter the taste of your drink.

If hand washing them isn’t for you, then teabags made from stainless steel or silicone can also be placed in the dishwasher.

Rounding Up

So, that’s everything you need to know about why you need to use reusable tea bags, what to look for, and how to clean them.

Remember, you have a few choices regarding material, which one is entirely up to you. They also come in different quantities, so try and judge your drinking habit before you make a decision. 

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