Globally, Dilmah produces around 4587 tons of tea bags annually. We have a number of different teabag formats using different materials such as tagless, string & tag, luxury leaf bags (pyramid shape bags). Over the last few years we have moved a number of our string & tag teabags over to plant-based bio-degradable PLA material (see below for details) and we expected to have moved 100% of our products to PLA by end of 2020 but unfortunately, Covid has delayed that process and our target is now by end of 2021. Our tagless teabags currently consist of approx 2% non-biodegradable fibres woven into the paper which enables heat sealing of the paper but we are in the process of changing ALL our teabags (Including tagless bags) over to bio-degradable plant-based PLA material.
NONE of our teabags are made with nylon plastics or polyethylene terephthalate plastics (PET), commonly used in the older style of pyramid nylon bags. Those nylon and PET bags have been the focus of research and media attention related to micro-plastics leeching into the water but rest assured we don't use those materials. Our pyramid style Exceptional range and Ceylon Bold product now use a material derived from corn starch which is treated by an enzyme to create the compound poly-lactic acid (PLA) which has a 'plastic-like' character which can be spun into fibre. Technically it is often referred to as a plant-based plastic however PLA unlike fossil-fuel based plastic material will biodegrade in a commercial composting facility. In a home compost environment, the New Zealand climate is generally not warm enough to be effective for this level of material breakdown within a realistic time frame to be called a compostable material. Unfortunately as of now, New Zealand also does not have well-developed systems for collection, sorting and processing of non-food based compostable materials but as a member of the FGC (Food & Grocery Council) in New Zealand, we are actively working to encourage government and council to see this happen.
Our standard teabags (non-pyramid bags) i.e. Dilmah Premium, Ceylon Green Tea and Infusions are composed mostly of natural cellulose fibres which contain no plastic coating such as epichlorohydrin and do not use chemical paper bleaching. Currently, these tagless teabags which do not use a staple or string to seal the bag contain 2% of polypropylene fibres used only for the heat seal that joins the bag together. These polypropylene fibres are a food-safe plastic which does not leech into water (like nylon or PET). For environmental reasons however, some choose to use loose leaf tea or organic teabags. This means most of our tagless teabags are not yet free of non-biodegradable fossil-fuel based plastic but the imminent move to PLA material will eliminate the need for these polypropylene fibres as PLA can also be heat sealed. Our sachets for individually wrapped tea bags are not currently biodegradable but our cardboard packaging is recyclable. The inner foil wrapper/pouch used in most of our products is crucial in maintaining the airtight freshness so important in tea but is not currently biodegradable as it uses a thin film of plastic-lined foil. However, that is soon moving to a PLA alternative as well. Our new Ceylon Bold product is the first of our tagless teabag products to move to entirely PLA material including the teabags and the inner pouch used to keep the teabags extra fresh. Our Dilmah Premium, English Breakfast and Earl Grey products will be moving to this soon as well (these 100's and 50's are packed on a different packaging line using different machinery so the 80's pack of Ceylon Bold was able to be launched sooner).
Our Organic range tea bags are free of plastics but unfortunately, these are not widely available in the New Zealand market at present.
As a part of the ongoing Dilmah family commitment to sustainability, a plastic upcycling plant was recently inaugurated, to use plastic waste at Dilmah to make decorative and construction material. As a part of this effort to eliminate the use of environmentally harmful plastics, Dilmah will this year recycle 10 times its total workplace plastic footprint by extracting and recycling plastic from the ocean and other sensitive eco-systems. The process of recovery and recycling of plastics in marine and terrestrial ecosystems will continue as a part of Dilmah Conservation/ecosystem restoration programme even after Dilmah achieves 100% compostable material in its manufacturing process.
Please follow our broader sustainability work at: www.dilmah.com/sustainability
All primary material that comes into direct contact with tea complies with worldwide food safety legislation and best practice guidelines for food contact packaging and specifically for hot beverage filtration. It is confirmed that there is no hazard to health for their use in a teabag application using hot water extraction approach which provides a direct assessment of the real application and using a wide range of analytical methods specified in legislation and best practice recommendations and guidelines. Primary material used in our tea bags comply with the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 of the European Parliament. Dilmah tea bags are manufactured in a state of the art manufacturing facility that complies with FSCC 22000, BRC Global Food Safety Standard, ISO 9001 Quality Management System and ISO 14000 Environment Management System.