Like many other people I've used tea-bags for most of my life, but I'm not buying them any more. Not while they are full of plastic.
Wait, you thought tea-bags were made of paper? Hm. Partly true. They do have paper, but they also have a thin layer of plastic mesh, which doesn't biodegrade. It's there mostly to heat-seal the two layers of the tea-bag together and is usually polypropylene.
We'd suspected this for a while as we have a compost bin and used to put the used tea-bags in there. When we came to use the compost, there would always be the ghosts of tea-bags in the compost. At first I thought these were just the bags taking time to rot down. They're not. They're plastic and they will release microplastics into the environment. If you still don't know why microplastics are bad, read this... And if you really want to learn more, read this report by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection.
A blog post over at Moral Fibres looked at this recently: http://moralfibres.co.uk/is-there-plastic-in-your-tea/ and asked various tea companies if there was still plastic in their tea-bags. Disappointingly, although some companies didn't use plastic in their tea-bags, they then wrapped those bags in plastic.
So what am I doing? Am I giving up tea?
No. I'm moving to buying loose tea and brewing it in a metal infuser. The leaves can then go on the garden or in the compost bin and I can enjoy my cuppa knowing that I'm not adding to the microplastics being released into the environment. It's part of a range of things I'm trying to do, to reduce my effect on the world (including not buying synthetic or non-biodegradable clothes, buying vegetables and fruit loose rather than packed in plastic, reducing the amount of plastic bought, re-using plastic where possible and recycling as much as I can. I'm also trying not to buy anything in a plastic that's labelled as non-recyclable).
Who's joining me? If everyone either ditched the tea-bag or lobbied firms to remove the plastic from them, imagine how much less microplastic would be released into the environment.