An everyday occurrence in most households. Whether it’s a cup to wake you up, or a cup before bed, I often think that tea is the elixir of life. But this beautiful liquid often comes with non earth friendly side effects.

Some chai tea leaves & my favourite tea pot

Getting rid of what you’ve got

Tea leaves

Amazingly, tea leaves can be a very versatile substance once you’ve used them. If you’re using tea bags, cut open the bag and scoop out the loose leaves. Tea leaves can be added to your compost bin (bokashi included), and act as a fertiliser to speed up the composting process. We pack ours up separately for donation via ShareWaste, which you can read about here.

Some of our used tea leaves

Tea bags

The bags themselves may be compostable but it really depends on the brand. Many tea bags (around 20-30%) are made up of polypropylene, which means they will not compost. You’ll be able to tell as these bags are usually heat sealed at the bottom and are kind of slippery to touch. If you aren’t sure about whether your tea bag is compostable, do some research first, or just throw it in the compost and see if it works! It will become evident pretty quickly if it’s working or not.

Twinnings peppermint tea bag

Compostable tea bags

As a nurse, I don’t often go a shift without having a cup of tea, and that goes for most of the nurses I work with too. So although I believe loose leaf is best, tea bags are an easy solution for making a quick cuppa. Luckily, many tea brands have heard our concerns and are attempting to switch to compostable options. T2 have recently made the switch to corn starch, and Twinnings are polypropylene free! For a more comprehensive list of which tea bags are/are not plastic free, head to this 1 Million Women blog post.

Jake’s stash of Twinnings Green Tea & Lemon

Loose leaf

I’ll acknowledge that tea bags are cheap, but in my experience loose tea leaves have a much better taste and flavour range. I used to get my loose leaf tea from T2, thinking this was a ‘better’ zero waste alternative to tea bags. However, the tea leaves come wrapped in a little tiny plastic bag. The box can be recycled, and the plastic will go to RedCycle, but that is far from a solution.

Some T2 leaves

So instead of giving up on tea altogether. The best alternative is to bulk buy! Eumarrah and Unpacked in Hobart both stock tea thats available for bulk buying, and most bulk stores near you should have a stock. Below is a photo I took at Eumarrah in the Hobart CBD, they have a huge range of loose leaf tea, from English Breakfast to Raspberry leaf.

Eumarrah’s bulk tea stock

You don’t need a fancy tea strainer

If you don’t have one, don’t let fancy sustainable focused instagrams fool you. You don’t need to purchase a super expensive tea strainer, or those little re-usable tea bags I see advertised everywhere. Tea strainers and tea pots have been around for a long long time, so most op-shops, tip shops and antique stores will have them for a super cheap price. Jake’s mum even has a collection of antique strainers that she usually picks up from op shops. My strainer came as a gift in a T2 pack for my birthday, it’s huge and fits in every mug. I also use it for kombucha making!

My favourite mug and tea strainer

Tea making is never something I had thought about going into this zero waste journey. But due to the amount of tea we drink, we had to make some changes. But this was not a difficult change, it’s actually easier (and cheaper) to buy in bulk, and there are heaps of composting options out there.

For my blog post on ShareWaste, head to https://tassiegirlzerowaste.home.blog/2019/08/10/sharewaste/

For tea bag composting, head to https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/ingredients/composting-tea-bags.htm

For list of compostable & non-compostable tea bag brands, head to https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/tea-bag-or-not-tea-bag-guide-plastic-free-tea/

For information on RedCycle soft plastic recycling, head to https://www.redcycle.net.au/what-to-redcycle/

Follow my Instagram @tassiegirlzerowaste

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