Are you one of those who need their morning cup of coffee or tea and would be unable to function otherwise?
I know I am.
Coffee pods and tea bags are two of the common objects we use in our daily life. They’re always around us, but are you aware of the environmental impact they cause?
Wakes you up better than Coffee
Plastics in coffee pods need over 500 years to break down and release large amounts of methane gas.
I’m sure we all know that methane is a greenhouse gas and that it traps heat from the sun, which in turn continues to warm up our atmosphere. But how exactly is methane different from other gases?
Methane traps heat way more effectively compared to other greenhouse gases. In fact, it absorbs 84 times more energy than carbon dioxide over a span of 20 years. Although it stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years, the volume of methane generated has been increasing significantly. There are numerous sources of methane and more than 50% of methane emissions come from human activities.
More than 50% of methane emissions are controllable and preventable.
Do you think that you are not related to all these ‘human activities’?
Landfills are the third largest source of methane, at least in the US. This means that waste from industries and the waste directly from your home is contributing to the rising volumes of methane. Thus, this amplifies the effects of global warming, posing risks to our environment.
“It’s scary because we don’t know what we are contributing to and just keep doing it.”
Time to Spill the Tea
Enough about coffee, let’s talk about teas.
Tea bags contain up to 25% of plastic and each bag releases 11 billion microplastics and 3 billion nanoplastics when placed in boiling water.
Though these can’t be seen with the naked eye, all these will eventually flow into our waters, contributing to yet another deeper problem of water pollution. (See what I did there?)
Tea bags not only pollute our waters, they also cause harm to our health. They appear clean and white due to intensive bleaching of the wood pulp or vegetable fibre used. Hence, chemicals and potentially toxic by-products could leak into the teas we drink!
To keep the tea leaves in its bag and prevent them from giving way, most tea bags are lined with an inner layer of non-biodegradable, heat-resistant polypropylene plastic. Plastic being plastic, this layer stays around for years and slows down the composting process for the tea leaves. Knowing this, WRAP, an organisation that advocates recycling and sustainability in the UK, recommended that we open up the tea bags before composting to quicken the process.
Back home in Singapore, both the coffee and tea industries are huge and have been growing steadily. In 2020, the coffee industry has generated US$1,329m and is expected to grow annually by 8.8%. Meanwhile, the tea industry has generated US$554m and the market foresees a growth of 6.3%. Just imagine how many coffee pods and tea bags would be thrown away after a single use!
Tea Break is Over
We can't live without coffee and tea.
That's a fact. However, there is always a way around it!
To all our coffee enthusiasts, you could always avoid using pod coffee machines or use recycled pods!
Nespresso capsules are a good example of recycled pods. They are made up of aluminium, which is infinitely recyclable. It provides the best protection against oxygen, light and humidity, all of which would affect the taste of your coffee. Aluminium is sustainable as it requires up to 95% less energy to recycle than to produce primary metals.
Being recyclable, Nespresso allows their customers to return used capsules at their recycling points. The capsules are recycled into can drinks, bicycles, computers, the coloured side panels of Nespresso’s Pixie machines and new capsules. Some capsules are also used to grow organic vegetables locally at Sky Greens, a vertical farm in Lim Chu Kang.
Besides this, there are many other places producing reusable coffee pods. For instance, SealPod collaborated with Nespresso OriginalLine to produce reusable capsules for their machines. The pod system includes refillable stainless steel capsules and recyclable lids that can be either aluminium or paper based, allowing you to drink with ease, knowing that your waste is minimised.
To all our tea lovers, you could opt for plastic-free tea bags or loose tea leaves instead of using common sachets for our convenience - at the expense of our environment.
Where to purchase plastic-free tea bags or loose tea leaves
Here are 5 places where you could go to source for your plastic-free tea bags or loose tea leaves.
1. Pukka Herbs
At Pukka Herbs, their tea bags are made with wood pulp, plant cellulose fibres and abca, which is a species of banana, and stitched together using organic cotton.
SHOW NOW: You can either send them a DM on instagram or drop them an email via their website.
2. Kusmi Tea
Tea bags from Kusmi Tea are all biodegradable and made with vegetable residues and corn starch. They are located at Takashimaya Shopping Centre and provide free shipping for first-time customers
SHOW NOW: https://kusmitea.com.sg
3. Collaboration Tea
Collaboration Tea’s tea bags are not only biodegradable, but it also comes with inspirational quotes on the tea tags.Tea pouches are also customisable for weddings, birthdays and other various events to make your gift for a loved one more meaningful.
SHOW NOW: https://www.collabtea.com/
If you are looking for teas that are dairy and gluten free, you should check out Teapigs. Their tea bags are made of cornstarch and they use vegetable-based inks on their packaging!
SHOW NOW: https://simplyactive.com.sg/collections/teapigs