Friday, April 12, 2013

Something To Think About

I don’t mean this to be preachy. I am as guilty as the next guy. My point here is to encourage all of us to think about what we are doing, and maybe as a result drink more tea – preferably loose leaf.

The next time you grab a soda out of a vending machine and then toss the can in the trash, think about this – depending on who you ask, it will take between 70 and 500 years for that can to break down. At the very least make an effort to recycle the can.

You know you should avoid buying your drinks in plastic bottles. What’s that? Your water and often your soda come in those plastic bottles? Did you know plastic bottles are forever? They don’t break down in the landfill.  Ever. Of course the plastic bag you brought them home in probably won’t either. Well maybe the bag will break down in 20 years if exposed to sunlight. A plastic 6-pack holder ring will take 450 years under the same conditions. Avoid them if you can - recycle them when you can’t.

If you buy your juice or ready to drink tea in glass bottles because the idea of plastic troubles you. Good. Except that glass bottle will take a million years to degrade. Recycle or reuse dude.

A simple coated paper milk carton will take 5 years to decompose. I don’t even know if you can recycle these.

Sadly, even the figures mentioned above may be understated. The modern landfill is lined with plastic and clay to prevent leeching into the ground water. The result is the contents of the modern landfill are far more likely to mummify rather than decompose. What have we done?

OK, this is a blog about tea, rather than feeling depressed, you should be feeling encouraged to drink more tea about now. It has got to be better for the environment. Why, even tea bags are better choices than anything else mentioned so far - right? After all, everyone knows teabags are environmentally friendly. Right? Well, except, maybe not, at least not entirely.

The everyday run of the mill tea bag has plastic threads mixed in so the bag edges can be sealed! Seriously? Yep, apparently so. They look so innocent. The amount of plastic is small but it's there. If you compost, tearing the bag open will help it to eventually break down. The remaining plastic threads, if not sifted out, will at least help hold the soil together. Admittedly, this is not a perfect solution but sure beats plastic bottles.

Nylon sachets, that some 'fancy' teas come in, do not breakdown. Even the pyramid sachets, marketed as biodegradable, may not break down quickly in a home compost bin. Their biodegradable label is based on industrial composting, to which most of us do not have access.

So what can we do? One suggestion is to use more loose leaf tea. Your tea leaves are compostable and contain many beneficial nutrients. When possible buy your tea in reusable or recyclable tins and packaging. This will help to eliminate or reduce plastic packaging as much as possible. If your tap water doesn't make good tea, don’t use water in plastic bottles. Filter your water. This is at least a start.

I am not trying to put a guilt trip on you. In the past I have tended to just throw stuff in the trash and walk away without a second thought as to what happens to it. Since learning, over the last couple days, what I have just written it has weighed on my mind. I needed to share. If I don’t change my ways, maybe you will, and the world will be better for it.

Follow this link if you would like to read more on the subject of boidegadable and compostable definitions.


  1. Yeah - loose tea is the best! And you can recycle the leaves even because I have heard that putting them on your soil as fertiliser helps plants grow!!

    1. When we started dumping our leaves in to a bowl that we save for composting, we were amazed how quickly they add up.