Plastic-free Tea Packaging, a natural next step... It’s been a challenge but an important one that links closely to our core ethics and ethos.
Eco-friendly is the future, look out for new brand 100% plastic free bags, retail boxes and accessory packaging over the coming months. Favouring ethical supplier practices and operating in a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable manner are the cornerstones of everything we do so it was a natural next step for SUKI.
Many customers ask us about our tea and its packaging, whether it is plastic-free, and where it can be recycled so we thought we’d answer all your questions in one place. Making sure you know where to dispose of all your tea packaging once you’ve enjoyed your favourite loose leaf tea!
Biodegradable vs compostable
There can be quite a bit of confusion surrounding some environmental terminology and particularly when it comes to the terms biodegradable and compostable, often thought to be the same and interchangeable, but quite different. While both words refer to the ability for a material to return safely to the earth there are some key differences...
While most people refer to the correct definition of the word (the breakdown of materials in a natural environment using micro-organisms), there are instances where businesses referring to plastic alternatives will use the term to make a product appear more environmentally friendly than it really is. This is known as 'greenwashing' and can be very misleading for consumers trying to make an effort to be more conscious with their purchases. The difficulty is that technically everything biodegrades (even plastic), but it might take years for it to happen and the process can result in larger issues such as microplastics.
This term has a much clearer definition (the breakdown of materials into natural elements including water, carbon dioxide, biomass) but the bottom line is that materials must be capable of being incorporated into compost at the end of their life. Compostable materials are often associated with a specific time period; however, this largely depends on the composting environment, for instance some require certain conditions to decompose properly, such as a higher level of heat or moisture. This means that they aren’t always suitable for your home compost heap and are better suited to industrial (council or commercial) waste collections.
We thought we’d answer all your plastic free tea packaging questions in one place, just so you know where to dispose of all your packaging once you’ve enjoyed your favourite tea.
Loose Leaf Tea
All our tea blends are natural products and great for home compost or your food waste bin!
Pyramid Tea Bags
Filled with the same quality ingredients as our loose-leaf teas and infusions, SUKI pyramids are plastic-free.They are made from paper, yarn and a special material called Soilon, meaning unlike some traditional teabags, our pyramid teabags are completely natural and plastic-free!
Made from corn starch, Soilon is a naturally derived product that is fully compostable so can be disposed of with food waste collections. Although it can be added to your home compost bin it won’t decompose just as quickly here so it’s best to add it to either council or commercial food waste collections, if you have them.
Our pyramids are fully compliant with EN13432 and carry the OK Compost certification.
Unfortunately, our pyramid envelope outer packaging still contain plastic in their lining, however, we are working with our current supplier to find a suitable alternative material as soon as we can.
Inner Retail Bags
You’ll find these clear inner bags in both our loose leaf and pyramid tea retail boxes and although they might look just like plastic, we promise they’re not!
They’re actually a clever film called Natureflex, created from cellulose made from sustainably sourced wood pulp. Natureflex is suitable for both industrial (council or commercial food waste) or home composting – meaning our packaging is now as environmentally friendly as the tea that goes inside it!
Our inner bags are fully compliant with EN13432 and carry the OK Home Compost certification.
Outer Retail Boxes
All our retail boxes are printed locally in Northern Ireland and made from sustainably sourced cardboard (always FSC or PEFC) and are either pre-printed using vegetable-based inks or use a paper-based label.
While cardboard will technically decompose, it would take quite a long time, so the best place for disposing of your retail box is via your usual (council or commercial) recycling collection.
Foodservice Bags/Large Bags
Our foodservice bags are something quite wonderful - even if we do say so ourselves! Whilst on the hunt for a plastic free alternative to our previous packaging, which looked eco-friendly but had an unfortunate plastic lining, we came across a variety of options available to us for storing our loose leaf teas and infusions.
There are a lot of ‘eco-friendly’ packaging solutions on the market but as we produce more large bags than any other products, we wanted to make sure we had the best solution possible.
We investigated everything from recyclable bags (similar to crisp packets but unfortunately still made of plastic) to biodegradable bags (some made from natural materials and others made from composite materials which most recycling facilities reject due to their complexity) before finally looking at compostable bags. We knew compostable bags were by far the best solution, but we also had to consider the best packaging to protect our tea leaves, as well as whether to opt for industrial (council or commercial) or home compostable materials.
As our teas are enjoyed across the world, we wanted to make sure we selected a material that could be disposed of no matter where our customers are. So, after much testing and trialling, our brand-new bags now feature a triple layer barrier (perfect for protecting our teas) that is industrially compostable in as little as 12 weeks and fully home compostable in 12 – 26 weeks.*
Our foodservice/large bags are fully compliant with EN13432 and carry the OK Home Compost certification.
*Our bags also feature a label that unfortunately isn’t compostable yet, but we are working with our suppliers on a solution for this. Our recommendation is to remove the label before adding the bag to your food waste.
Tin Tea Caddies
A wonderful reusable product! Our tea caddies contain loose leaf tea with a beautifully textured paper label and biodegradable seal. Once you’ve finished with one of our tea caddies why not refill it again or remove the label to reveal our iconic SUKI illustration and fill it with another tea of your choosing.
If you want to dispose of your tea caddy pop it in your local council or commercial recycling – tin is a fantastic product that is infinitely recyclable so it will have a new lease of life as a drinks can, tin of baked beans or even part of your next car!
What if I live somewhere that doesn’t have food waste collections?
Start your own! Most major garden and DIY retailers sell fairly inexpensive compost bins and it doesn’t take much more than a few food scraps to get started. Alternatively, make sure to reach out to your local MP and let them know the issue is important to you so it can be raised at government level.
While some countries around the world have made great progress in standardising their food waste collections, others, unfortunately, have not. Within the UK, recycling is handled at local government level and therefore varies greatly depending on location so it’s always best to check with your local council and find out what facilities are available.
In Belfast (where SUKI are based) and across Northern Ireland, we’re lucky enough to have residential food waste collections supplied by each of the local councils. At SUKI headquarters, we’re proud to have recently partnered with a new commercial waste service that means the entire SUKI offices, factory and warehouse are now completely zero waste to landfill!
For any other plastic free tea packaging questions - please drop us an email at [email protected] and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.