Over the past few months we’ve been getting more and more questions regarding our green credentials – most notably around whether or not our tea contains plastic. (Spoiler: NOPE)
So, in the theme of full transparency, and because we genuinely love this kinda thing, we wanted to put together a couple of really easy guides for how best to reuse, recycle and dispose of our products - which you can find here.
Even as a team pretty clued up with environmental issues, we found it soon became a bit of a minefield when it came to terminology and what to do with everything.
During our research, there were a few keywords that cropped up time and time again – so, we thought we’d compile our own glossary, and then thought why not upload it, in case you guys find it useful too.
biodegradable - what does it mean?
If something is biodegradable, it will eventually break down into smaller and smaller pieces by natural processes. Depending on what the item is, it could take anything from 6 months to 1000 years to break down. This means that, technically, almost any product could be labelled ‘biodegradable’ because most things will break down at some point in the future whether they’re derived from nature, like a banana skin, or made from chemicals – even some conventional plastics will eventually break down in to smaller, sometimes toxic, components for example. So the term biodegradable can be misleading and biodegradable materials are not necessarily compostable.
now let's move on to compostable materials...
Compostable materials are materials that have been certified to break down completely into non-toxic components (water, carbon dioxide, and biomass) that will not harm the environment, given the right conditions. The time it takes for something to break down depends largely on the product itself and the composting conditions.
Some materials can decompose in your home compost (like loose tea leaves and apple cores) but not all compostable materials are suitable for composting at home. Bio-plastics (compostable alternatives to conventional plastic packaging like our tea temples) are fully plant-derived and fully compostable but they require higher levels of heat, water, oxygen and micro-organisms to fully break down than what your home compost can provide. For anything to be legally labelled compostable, it has to have been certified to break down in industrial (council) composting facilities within 180 days. If you send our tea temples and the clear inner bag within our cardboard boxes to your local council for industrial composting, they will break them down within 12 weeks.
The good news for all you keen home composters though, is that our NatureFlex packaging (the clear inner bag) is also home compostable and can safely be put in your compost bin at home. Might feel weird at first, but trust us, it’s the future! The time it takes to break down will depend on the conditions of your compost at home.
While we're here, we thought it would also be useful to explain some other key words that crop up from time to time:
Fun fact: we were the first people to bring the biodegradable pyramid mesh bag to the UK market. Back then, the idea of calling it a mere tea bag wasn’t quite fitting for such an exciting product, nor did it convey how different the tea inside was! Whole leaf tea with the convenience of a bag, needed something far grander. And so the teapigs tea ‘temple’ was born.
We are incredibly proud of our tea temples. The temples themselves and the string attached are made from a plant based material derived from corn starch. The label is made from good, old-fashioned paper and even the ink on the label is vegetable-based. The net result? Our tea temples, label and all, will biodegrade in industrial composting conditions and can be put in your food waste bin for the council to process.
If something is recyclable, it means it can be broken down into its raw materials and repurposed so it can be used again. The outer cartons that store our tea temples, 30g matcha tins, and matcha sachets are made from FSC-certified paper that can be recycled. Our tins (tins of tea, matcha 30g tins and matcha 80g tins) are made from tinplate and aluminium, and can also be recycled.
Reusable products are not the same as recyclable products. If something is reusable, it means that after it has served its original purpose it can be used again without any kind of treatment. The outer cartons that store our tea temples, 30g matcha tins, and matcha sachets are safe to reuse, as are our tins of tea, matcha tins, and loose-tea pouches – although they might want to give them a quick rinse first! Why not give your stylish teapigs packaging a second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) life by using it to store other food items, buttons, stationary, or whatever else you see fit!
Some of the tea bags sold by the UK’s leading brands contain the plastic polypropylene, meaning they are not fully biodegradable. While we would never, ever use polypropylene to make our tea temples, it works very well for the clear inner bag we used to use to store them. At regular temperatures, it is safe, hygienic and airtight. It is now widely recycled, so if you have some of our older packs of tea, check with your local council if they accept it. We have, however, recently invested in switching over to a new wonder-material called Natureflex, which you can find out more about below.
NatureFlex is a wondrous material created by the geniuses at Futamura. They managed to figure out a way of converting wood pulp into airtight, transparent packaging. The wood they use is from sustainably-managed plantations and the end product is both biodegradable and compostable. We have recently invested in switching over to NatureFlex for the clear inner bags we use to store our tea temples. If you’ve got our NatureFlex packaging you can compost it at home!
A composite material is made from two or more constituent materials. These constituent materials are usually different physically and chemically from one another, and when combined into a composite material, it tends to take on characteristics different from those of its constituents. Composite products often pose a problem for recycling, as they must first be broken into their original materials. Our loose tea pouches are a composite made from paper and polyethylene. Although these are both recyclable materials, many councils refuse to process composites. Our matcha sachets are also currently a composite. We are working extremely hard to remedy this problem and hope to switch to new recyclable packaging for these two products very soon.
FSC certified paper
FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council. They are an incredible organisation who only source wood for production from forests that are sustainably managed. We use their paper to make the outer cartons of our tea temples, 30g matcha tins, and matcha sachets. In doing so, we know that the forests the paper comes from will be protected and conserved for generations to come. FSC certified paper is reusable, biodegradable, and recyclable, so we recommend putting it in with your home recycling.