A very British zero waste problem

I am just like an other English person: I love tea. I drink A LOT of tea it’s my only vice.

And I mean proper English breakfast tea with milk not that Earl Grey stuff which tastes like perfume!

Unfortunately this leaves me in a pickle when it comes to living the zero-waste lifestyle.

For some reason tea is particularly difficult to find in recyclable packaging.

There are several different ways that tea manufacturers will package their tea and this confuses things.

The following are just some of the ways in which tea is packaged:

  1. Loose tea leaves are packaged in a plastic-film packet, this packet cannot be recycled (see image below)
  2. Loose teabags are placed inside a cardboard box, the box is then wrapped in a clear plastic film material
  3. Teabags are bundled together in multiples of 40/80 or 100/200 and placed inside plastic-foil sachets and the sachets are placed inside a cardboard box with no external plastic
  4. Teabags are placed loose inside a cardboard box and the box has no plastic wrapping at all. This is the holy grail for zero waste teabags and is extremely hard to find!


It is easy to avoid non-recyclable packaging like plastic film on the outside of a box because you can see the plastic very clearly and then choose not to buy that product.

Zero waste tea 3

Loose-leaf tea in non-recyclable plastic packaging

However, my beef with teabag companies is that are not all great at labelling the materials which are contained within the box, its most annoying when you take home a box of teabags with no external plastic wrapping only to find that when you open the box the teabags are in a plastic-foil sachet which cannot be recycled.

A few examples are shown in the images below. Tesco did not label the plastic-foil inside the box (only the recyclable cardboard content) but Aldi did a great job of labelling all the materials contained within the product, they even explain that teabags are compostable!
Tesco teabags

tesco plastic foil teabagsZero waste tea 6



I tried for months and months to buy waste-free teabags, I tried many different brands and eventually found a brand that is completely zero-waste. The only problem with this brand is that it is so much more expensive than every other teabags. The brand is Twinings Everyday tea and it can cost up to £4.99 for a box of 100! The only box with no internal plastic packaging is the 100 teabags box, for some reason if you buy the box of 200 teabags then it has plastic packaging inside the box (sigh). I am not sure why this is the case.

twinings teabags


To make matters even worse for myself I decided to switch to decaffeinated tea and so I had to start all over again. Of course my first port of call was to try the Twinings brand again. They make two different decaffeinated teas and they are both pictured below: Zero waste tea 4

Now the small box of 50 teabags was astronomic in price, it cost me £4.29 for 50 teabags!!

The larger box of 80 decaffeinated Everyday bags cost me again £4.29 for 80 teabags. I am not sure why there is such a disparity in price of the same brand decaffeinated teabags, all I know is that I cannot afford to spend almost £9 on two boxes of teabags. The only thing that these teabags have going for them is the lack of non-recyclable packaging!

So I searched for alternatives in order to save me from going broke over teabags.

Shown in the image above is a teabag called Rooibos made by the Redbush tea company. Now these are much cheaper than the Twinings and come packaged loose inside the cardboard box. No plastic in sight. However, they do have a distinctive flavour which is not hideous but it is very strong and quite different from normal English tea. If you can get used to the flavour then these are a good alternative to plastic-packaged teabags.

The other tea pictured above is a decaff brand from Aldi, these are dirt cheap but come packaged in a plastic-foil sachet which cannot be recycled at all.

I feel like if any of this zero-waste research is going to break me then this item has come the closest!

I was about ready to give up my search for waste-free teabags when I came across the Yorkshire Tea decaff teabags. They do come with an outside layer of film plastic but at my local Tesco we can recycle clear plastic film along with the carrier bags. And so for now, this is my tea of choice.

Zero waste teabags 8

If somebody could just open up a bulk store in my town then my quest for the perfect teabag would be complete and I would be able to get tea with zero packaging. A girl can dream!

If you have any alternative tea brands that are zero waste then please let me know in the comments below.