Plastic Free Tea Bags

Plastic Free Tea Bags: Which Brands are really Plastic Free?

Plastic free tea bags? Yes, you heard that right…

Your cup of tea might contain 11 billion microplastic particles and this is due to the way the tea bag is engineered.

According to a recent Canadian study at McGill University, steeping a plastic tea bag at a brewing temperature of 95°C releases around 11.6 billion microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic between 100 nanometres and 5 millimetres in size – into a single cup. Compared to salt, for example, which has been also found to contain plastic, each cup contains thousands of times greater mass of plastic, at 16 micrograms per cup. Please find more details about this study here.

Let’s go one step back and understand how a tea bag is made and why it might contain plastic:


Are you shocked? Yes, we were too. We couldn’t believe that incorporating plastic in tea bags wasn’t tested for migration before engineering them, without even mentioning that fact that they are of course not biodegradable.

From now on, ask the brand of your prefered tea if they manufacture the tea bags using plastic or even better for you & the environment, switch completely to loose leaf tea.

Here a small guide to some of the most available and favourite brands in Australia. The answers were provided by the manufacturers or we found the information on their websites:

Plastic Free Tea Bags

  • Dilmah Organic: only the organic tea range tea bags are free of plastic. Read more here. 
  • Nature’s Cuppa Organic – Eatrite Australasia Pty Ltd (the manufacturer) responded that their tea bags are made with unbleached paper, and no polymers nor plasticisers. That makes sense, because they are closed with a metal staple.
  • Higher Living Teas – Their teabags are made out of unbleached paper with an organic cotton string stitched into the paper to form the teabag, therefore there’s no plastic. The teabag is completely compostable along with their envelope and the boxes are recyclable.
  • Pukka – They use a simple stitch of organic cotton and a unique folding process. They don’t need to use polypropylene to hold their teabags together and these are therefore free from plastic. They were the first company to ever use organic strings to hold our teabags together without the need of a metal staple or polypropylene. Find out more here.
  • Tetley – They have confirmed their stringed tea bags (pyramid and regular) are plastic free.
  • Lipton – Their Quality Black and Intense traditional tea bags are made from Manilla hemp and cellulose fibres. They are compostable but not recyclable.
  • Qi Tea – Their tea bags are completely plastic free. They try to keep all their packaging as completely plastic free as possible so it’s 100% recyclable and use veggie inks so it’s also compostable. The only part that has a little plastic is the envelope wrapper, because it helps keep it fresher longer, but they are working on an alternative substrate for that.
  • Harney & Sons – “Our paper tea bags are compostable, oxygen bleached with a method that does not produce dioxins, there is no epichlorohydrin, PET, or PLA in our paper tea bags. We offer a variety of certified organic teas in them. The tea bags are fastened with a knot in the string, there is no glue or staple on the tea bag, and they are a great choice if you have any concerns about plastics.”

Tea Bags with Plasticisers / PLA Plant Based Plastic

  • Twinings: “Our current string and tag tea bags are sealed by crimping the paper tightly down the centre, folding and using a cotton stitch at the top. The material used in these products is predominantly made up of a natural plant based cellulose material together with an added plastic-based material (acrylic polymer binder). This material helps to bond the cellulose fibres together to make the paper used for making the tea bags. We are pleased to confirm that we will be rolling out completely plastic free string and tag teabags from March 2020. The material used in our pyramid Infuser tea bags is PLA, which is made from plant starch and selected for its environmentally sustainable nature; our new Cold In’fuse products are part of this range. As one of the largest producers of tea globally, Twinings is continually investigating and investing in the creation of sustainable packaging materials for our products. Our carton boxes are fully recyclable.”
  • Tetley – The tea bags without strings contain a small amount of plastic to ensure the bags remain closed when they are in your tea.
  • Dilmah
    • Their pyramid style Exceptional range use a material derived from maize starch which is treated by an enzyme to create the compound poly-lactic acid (PLA) which has a ‘plastic-like’ character which can be spun into fibre. The teabags are technically compostable however this relates more to commercial composting and not home composting so we do not advertise these as biodegradable. They are now in the process of changing ALL their teabags (Including tagless bags) over to plastic-free PLA material.
    • Their standard teabags (non-pyramid bags) i.e. Dilmah Premium, Ceylon Green Tea and Infusions are composed mostly of natural cellulose fibres which contain no plastic coating such as epichlorohydrin and do not use chemical paper bleaching. Currently, these tagless teabags which do not use a staple or string to seal the bag contain 2% of polypropylene fibres used only for the heat seal that joins the bag together. These polypropylene fibres are a food-safe material which does not leech into water (like nylon or PET). For environmental reasons however, some choose to use loose leaf tea or organic teabags. This means our tagless teabags are not yet compostable or biodegradable yet but the imminent move to PLA material will eliminate the need for this 2% of polypropylene fibres as PLA can also be heat sealed.
    • Read their full explanation here.
  • Nerada – They use 98% manila hemp with 2% food grade synthetic fibres to heat-seal the teabags. According to their statement the teabags are compostable. Read the full article here.
  • Celestial Seasonings – Their stapleless bags are primarily made of abaca, a plant-based fibre. They use  some plastic fibers that are made of food grade polypropylene, not nylon, which are BPA and BPS free to ensure the tea bags remain properly sealed. This helps reduce overall waste in the environment, as this type of tea bag does not require strings, tags, staples, or individual wrappers, which saves 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills every year.
  • Madura – their tea bag filter paper is comprised of 80% natural materials, with the balance made up of synthetic fibres.
  • Madame Flavour – The pyramid bags have a silky finish, no staple. They are made of a plant-based (PLA corn-starch derived) material sourced in Japan and are fully biodegradable according to their statement.
  • Bushells – their tea bag paper is made from manila hemp, cellulose and thermoplastic fibers, as such they are not compostable or recyclable.
  • Lipton Green Decaf, Chai and Herbal traditional tea bags are made from manilla hemp, cellulose and thermoplastic fibres. They are not compostable or recyclable.
  • Barry’s Tea – “Our tea bags are not currently compostable. A small amount of polypropylene is used in teabags to allow the teabag to be heat sealed. We are currently trialling alternative options for heat sealing our teabags, using plant-based alternatives that are fully biodegradable.Sustainability is something that is really important to us and we’re working closely with our tea filter paper suppliers. As we produce millions of tea bags a week, we need to ensure that the replacement works from a manufacturing perspective. These trials are at an advanced stage and once we have a solution confirmed, we will announce when our new biodegradable tea bags will be available. We are fully committed to this. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support. Best, Barry’s Tea”.
  • Harney & Sons – “Our sachets are a BPA free food grade nylon, though we are in transition to a biodegradable material and are excited to be making the change! We have been testing non-GMO biodegradable sugarcane based polylactic acid sachet material for about a year now and have recently started introducing it to some of our product lines, it is currently being sold in our Organic Ginger Turmeric bag of 50 sachets as well as the bag of 50 sachets of Matcha Iri Genmaicha. We haven’t had any luck getting the strings to attach to the new material, and have a different type of biodegradable PLA coming soon. We hope the new material will be successful on our machines and able to attach a string.”
  • Ito En: “Our Matcha Green Tea tea bags are made of food grade PET filter materials (Polyethylene Terephthalate). We are also actively researching for plant-based material options and currently testing its compatibility to hopefully switch to plastic free materials in the future”.

PLA plastic or polylactic acid is a vegetable-based plastic material, which commonly uses cornstarch as a raw material, but remember much of the corn supply is genetically modified! Furthermore, PLA tea bags will not biodegrade in your compost much. They can only be broken down in industrial and municipal composting facilities, of which there are very few in Australia.

For your health and for the environment, of course, the best way to drink tea is to use loose leaf tea and we love to drink our Chai Latte with our reusable straws 🙂

Loose Leaf Tea

T2, Nerada, Harney & Sons nearly every tea brand offers loose tea. The list of loose tea brands is endless!

We are building our own range of loose leaf tea in certified home compostable packaging, so that you don’t have to worry if your tea bag is plastic free or not.

Do you have any question or comment?

Or maybe would you like to give us some more information about other tea brands?

Just write in the section below or email

To browse our marketplace for plastic free & upcycled products, click here.

Comments (41)

  1. Alison

    Thanks for the excellent information. A question re Madame Flavour: What about the very small amount of polymer stated on their packaging explanation page?? Thanks


      Thanks Alison, that’s a very good point. When we contacted them, they only mentioned the pyramid bags, didn’t know they also have other tea bags. Thanks for the information, we’ll update our blog post!

      • Margaret

        Are Clipper Tea bags plastic free?

        • I'M PLASTIC FREE

          Hi Margaret, we just found this information on their website. Their tea bags are sealed with PLA (poly lactic acid) which is a vegetable based plastic material. I hope this helps. Kind regards, Simona

  2. Greg

    Well done. Good info.


      Thank you Greg !

    • Anonymous Moose

      Crap. Just finished a bag of Tazo tea… And it’s not listed on this website. Man, darn these companies touting to be organic and healthy… Yet use plastics in their manufacturing process.


        Hello, thanks for you comment. We are not sure about Tazo. We’ll try to request more information and if they reply, we’ll update our blog article. We cannot listed every brand sold in Australia… so we concentrated on the most popular ones.

    • Chris

      Thanks for the info. Any idea where I can get decaffeinated loose leaf tea?

  3. Karen

    Hi I was wondering if HT (Harney & sons ) sachets are plastic free. I drink their tea daily. Also if they are not plastic free would it help to cut them open & use the tea as “loose” tea leaves ? Would that cut down on the plastic in my cup ?


      We have provided the info we had about H&S. I wouldn’t cut the sachets as this would release microplastics.

  4. JWShin

    PLA plastics also regarted as a polymerrized plastic. Can biodegradable means not harmful in our body and it can degrade into not hazardous material in body? PLA plastics doesn’t make micro or nano particles in tea infuwsion?


      Hello, unfortunately we don’t know the long time effects of ingesting PLA bioplastics micro- or nano particles in our body. We are just providing the information as delivered by tea manufacturers. However, according to this 1995 study issued in the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal: “PLA is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) when used in contact with food.” Here is the link to the study:

    • Greg

      Keep in mind that despite a chemical being approved for use by FSANZ, that just means that no harm has yet been identified. Such additives don’t provide any nutrition to the organism, but merely extend shelf life, change colour of the product, change the texture, sweetness, or other flavour component more cheaply than by improving a recipe, or superficial property.

      Rather than trying to keep track of the ever-changing panorama of additives, I made the simple decision some years ago only to buy and eat foods that were made out of foods.


        Hi Greg, thanks for referring to that great article. Absolutely, we don’t advocate to drink tea in PLA tea bags, we actually think it’s safer to drink loose tea in a strainer, at least you know it’s just tea. Thanks again!

    • Greg

      Keep in mind that despite a chemical being approved for use by FSANZ, that just means that no harm has yet been identified. Such additives don’t provide any nutrition to the organism, but merely extend shelf life, change colour of the product, change the texture, sweetness, or other flavour component more cheaply than by improving a recipe, or other superficial property.

      Rather than trying to keep track of the ever-changing panorama of additives, I made the simple decision some years ago only to buy and eat foods that were made out of foods.

    • Linda M. Schell

      We are hearing that the increase in IBS, Leaky Gut Syndrome is linked to the amount of plastics and other chemicals in our systems that land there and in our Biome! I’m not a doctor but it makes a lot of sense.
      If we are pouring boiling hot water on a tea bag, whose to say it doesn’t break down the plastic, and even change is properties from inert to “nasties”. Same as those “plastic looking” BBQ mats that are now becoming popular


        Really? That’s a very interesting topic, I did some research but couldn’t find anything about it yet… Having gut issues myself this is something I’d love to investigate and write about. I know scientists are investigating the effects of us humans as well as wildlife ingesting microplastics, so it’s just a question of time until we see scientific studies about this topic.


        I forgot to mention that it does make a lot of sense to me too, a well known independent German Institute did some testing on baking mats and other items and they found migration of particles leaking into food when exposed to the high temperatures of the oven. I’ll compile an article about it as soon as possible. Regards, Simona

  5. Karen

    Thank you !


      Hi Karen, we received a reply by Harney & Sons, so we updated the Blog Post. I hope this helps. Cheers, Simona

  6. tammy

    i’m confused, on one part you say ipton – Their Quality Black and Intense traditional tea bags are made from Manilla hemp and cellulose fibres. They are compostable but not recyclable.

    and then lower you say that another version is also made with Manilla hemp and cellulose fibres.
    but that it is NOT compostable but not recyclable.

    which is it??


      Hello Tammy, thanks for your enquiry. The information we provided is correct and we received it directly from Lipton. The difference is in the THERMOPLASTIC fibres that are present in the Lipton Green Decaf, Chai and Herbal traditional tea bags, that’s why these are not compostable or recyclable. Not all of their tea bags are made and sealed in the same way, as they have global operations and manufacturing facilities. I hope this helps. If you want to be 100% sure, we’d recommend to use loose tea. Kind regards, Simona

  7. Linda M. Schell

    I am trying to find out if the brand Selection Orange Pekoe Black tea, bagged/packaged for Metro stores in Quebec (product from ?), uses any plastic. I found your site and now I am wondering if my plastic coffee purcolator might also present the same problem. Perhaps there is a full list, somewhere, of products containing plastic that we are oblivious to!!


      Hi Linda, thanks for your message. Oh I see, in that case you should get in contact with the Metro stores in your area. I’m based in Australia and we do not have this grocery chain here. Yes, unfortunately plastic should not be exposed to very high temperatures, that’s why we also recommend to always check your kettle as boiling water in plastic is no good. A part from microplastics, there is the issue with bisphenols and if a product says BPA free that doesn’t mean, free of other bishenols. We are working on more blog articles to clarify where plastic is hiding too! Regards, Simona

  8. Stuart

    Tetley stringed tea bags are plastic free,BUT the box they come in is covered in plastic


      Oh yes, they have to see their packaging because of humidity etc. That’s why we recommend, if possible, to buy your loose leaf tea from a bulk store. Regards, Simona

  9. kat

    I’ve heard the glue they use to seal the paper tea bags is just as bad as the plastic materials. Do you know if this is true?


      Hi Kat, thanks for your question, yes you’re right, I’ve done a little bit of research on this and unfortunately there’s not much information on the web. I’ve read that the glue used might be an acrylic copolymer emulsion, therefore a plastic based glue that bonds the tea bags together. Even though the amount used might be minimal, there might still be some migration in the tea when used with boiling water… therefore we highly recommend to use either paper bags sealed with metal or even better for the environment and absolutely safe, loose tea.

  10. Chris

    I can’t seem to find anything out about Laura Secord pyramid tea bags. I’ve been told they’re bad. Any comment on that?


      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I’ve never heard of that brand before, I’m based in Australia. I googled it but I cannot even find a website for it… I’d ask the retailer where you’re buying it from or check the packaging if you can find the Customer Information phone number. However, from my experience pyramid tea bags are not paper based… Regards, Simona

  11. Jessica

    Can you cut the tea bags and combine all the loose leaf and use it in a stainless steel strained? Or do you still get the plastic when heated? I have sooo much tea! And I’m wondering if I have to throw it all away.


      Hi Jessica, yes you can! I read that a few microplastic particles might be released when cutting them with the scissors… However, since you’re not immersing them in hot water I believe it’s the safest thing to do. Remove the tea, use it up, don’t let it go to waste and then switch over to loose tea when finished!

  12. Greg

    Of course, make sure that those specific tea bags contain plastics first!

    Expect to have to contact the manufacturer a couple of times. Their first response is likely to be a bit low-key with the facts. They might use words like “vegan” or “cruelty-free” as red herrings, and will probably end up using words like “plasticiser”, “polymer”, or “hydrocarbon” intead of “plastic”.

  13. P Dhillon

    Your information on Tetley bags is incorrect.
    Tetley tea bags are 99% plastic free, but still have the 1%. This is on their website…


      Hi, no it’s not incorrect. We enquired with Tetley UK and they confirmed that it is correct. I’ll try to attach the correspondence here but not sure if it’ll show up. Regards Tetley UK.jpg

  14. Kayoko Wright

    Are Ito en tea bags plastic free?


      Hi Kayoko, I’ve asked Ito En, I’ll let you know if they reply! Kind regards, Simona


        Hi Kayoko, this is their reply: “Our Matcha Green Tea tea bags are made of food grade PET filter materials (Polyethylene Terephthalate). We are also actively researching for plant-based material options and currently testing its compatibility to hopefully switch to plastic-free materials in the future”.

        Our Matcha Green Tea on our marketplace is plastic free and come with compostable packaging

        I hope this helps.

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