With fierce competition between tea brands, tea bag design has become more innovative. In a drive to improve sustainability, the latest bags are made from the bioplastic polylactic acid (PLA). The advantages of the new bags are that they are made from a renewable material and are compostable, says Eamonn Tighe, business development manager at US-based bioplastics producer NatureWorks.
Developed by Helsinki-headquartered nonwoven materials specialist Ahlstrom, the bags are made from a lightweight nonwoven filament web based on NatureWorks’ Ingeo PLA. The idea is that the new bags, as well as being more sustainable, will increase consumer awareness about high-quality tea, says Marco Martinez, Ahlstrom’s global communications manager. The brand will be launched this year, targeting the premium tea market.
Because the material can be sealed using the latest ultrasonic bonding technology, it is suitable for pyramid-shaped bags, which are becoming increasingly popular at the high end of the market, explains Martinez. Until now, ultrasonic sealing has only been suitable for bags made from a woven nylon net.
“The new material is the first available alternative to the nylon woven materials,” says Martinez. “Compared with nylon, there are some clear advantages in terms of sustainability.”
Most tea bags are made of a mix of natural and synthetic fibers, usually polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), and sealed with heat or by crimping. Ultrasonic bonding generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional materials, adds Martinez. And, most importantly, the material has no odor or taste.