By Craig Chappelle
That’s the round-figure estimate of how many microplastic particles you consume every time you do the familiar dip, dangle, dunk or jiggle with a teabag.
Multiply that by the number of cuppas you have in an average day, and you begin to wish you’d known about this scary statistic years ago.
Some people did – the teabag makers, for example, but they weren’t going to say anything.
Others who knew put the word out, but there’s so much frightening stuff around these days about plastic that the news hasn’t made as many ripples in the media as the average teabag does when plonked into a cup of hot water.
I heard about it for the first time only last week, and more than half the 20 or so people I mentioned it to didn’t know.
They were shocked to learn that their favourite beverage was a health hazard.
So, what are the facts and how do you avoid this hidden horror?
About 25 percent of a common teabag is made from polypropylene, the second most-widely used commodity plastic in the world.
It’s added to prevent the bag from leaking, breaking or losing its shape in hot water.
Polypropylene is recyclable – it’s a #5 – but doesn’t completely decompose, making it bad not just for the environment but for your body, where it may affect the endocrine system and lead to health issues that could become chronic.
Surely, the simple answer is to make teabags plastic-free?
Not so simple, apparently.
Manufacturers protest that producing non-plasticised bags would be too costly.
(What? It costs more to take something out than to put it in? Maybe drinking all that plastic is affecting their ability to make sense …)
Thankfully, getting around the problem is easy – drink tea that doesn’t contain plastic.
The first and most obvious way is by switching to loose-leaf tea, like grandma used.
It not only tastes a million times nicer but the ritual of using a teapot or infuser forces you to take a bit of time out, so is good for your emotional wellbeing and your soul.
Loose-leaf tea is also more economical because it’s priced by weight, while teabags are priced per bag.
The second alternative is to buy brands of teabag that don’t contain plastic.
Brands which say they don’t use plastic in their string-and-tag teabags include Pukka (the envelopes do contain plastic), Tea Tonic, Nature’s Cuppa and Clipper Tea (string-and-tag bags only).