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Sachet Material Update

by Emeric Harney October 29, 2021 2 min read 21 Comments

Sachet Material Update

One question we often get here at Harney & Sons is if we use plastic for our sachets. First, we welcome these questions because we share our customers’ concerns for what we put in our bodies and the environment, and second because we want to be fully transparent about our products. So thank you for asking!

To begin, let’s note the correct definition of “plastic” -- plastic is something that can be molded or shaped easily (unlike rock). Plastic materials have often come from petroleum byproducts. Things have changed over the last decade or so, however, with cornstarch becoming a plant-based source used in plastics. But even cornstarch used some genetically modified material, so while a better solution, not the perfect one. Progress is being made, however, as non-GMO sugarcane has become available in the last few years. 

Today, we’re pleased to be able to say that almost 40% of the material used to enclose our teas is from compostable sugarcane. In August of this year, it was zero percent, so we feel like we’re making good progress!

At this point, we are using these new bags on our 50-count sachets and Classic line. While we want to offer this new material for all our sachet teas, it will take some time to get to 100%. It will not surprise anyone to hear that the pandemic significantly slowed down our ability to get up to speed as quickly as we wanted to, but we are getting there!

As I shared in  our August update, we had three new machines installed that can run this new material, which is how we went from 0-40%. Our remaining machines are currently being retrofitted to be able to run this new material. It’s a bit like installing seat belts on a 1960’s car or think about how they had to make a carbon dioxide scrubber on the damaged Apollo 13 rocket using only what they had on board. There is experimentation. Earlier this month, we had a visit from the Japanese manufacturer. He is a U.S.-based salesman, not a technician since they cannot travel from Japan to the U.S. yet. He was able to come up with a workaround that should make all the old machines able to handle this new material. We’re eager to try the solution out -- fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, we are running nylon on the remaining machines. Our goal is to get them converted to sugarcane material ASAP.

I also recently met with scientists at the Cary Institute. The Institute will start an inquiry into making industrial compostable material biodegrade in a home compost pile, which it currently is not. This would be a game changer. Don’t you love science?!

Harney & Sons is also working on converting other petroleum-based packaging into compostable material. As you can see, there’s a lot going on, and as soon as we’ve got news to share, we’ll shout it from the rooftops! Thanks for your patience as we slowly turn this battleship around.



Emeric Harney
Emeric Harney


21 Responses

Jessica
Jessica

May 13, 2022

This was great news to stumble on when Googling whether your sachets were compostable! I would love to be able to throw them in with the rest of my food scraps!

Connie
Connie

May 13, 2022

I’m so glad to learn that you are making the necessary steps to convert all your sachets to plant based and fully compostable. We had recently stopped buying your teas because of the non-compost ability. I really dislike having to discard the dregs, opening and emptying each packet after using and worse…finding the ones my husband forgets and puts in the compost months and months later in my garden. We love your teas and will be happy to purchase them once again in the future.

Andrea Johnson
Andrea Johnson

March 24, 2022

Thank you for taking the time and money to invest in our planet’s future!
I was so disappointed to learn that your sachets contained nylon products. For the moment I won’t be buying any more of your bagged teas, but I look forward to purchasing again in the future when your product is home compostable and plastic free!

Cornelia
Cornelia

January 28, 2022

while this is all a step in the right direction I am wondering whatever happened to paper sachets? Cleary they have been around for a long time and are home compostable. I will not buy your sachets any time soon. Sticking with loose leaf.

Jenn
Jenn

January 05, 2022

So glad to have found this post! I’ve actively been working to reduce my use of wasteful packaging for as many products in my personal home as possible for the last couple of years… but I also love Harney Teas. I was just getting ready to buy some new loose leaf tea for my tea tins (and LOVE the gorgeous Harney tins!!) and was having trouble making a decision on what tea to buy because of the packing. This is amazing, and I can’t wait to see the continued progress.

Sherl
Sherl

January 05, 2022

Thank you for the ongoing updates and the investment in more friendly packaging.

Kim Hunter
Kim Hunter

January 05, 2022

Great news! Can you please denote that the product is compostable on your containers? I’m still putting the sachets in the trash and not the compost, because I don’t know what they are made of. Thank you!

Hariette Gray
Hariette Gray

December 26, 2021

I had decided not to reorder from you because of the non-compostable and petroleum based sachets that you use in packaging your tea. I am thrilled to learn that that is in the works to be changed. Thank you. I will use up the remaining product I have then reorder in the larger quantities that are responsibly packaged. I do cut the sachets that I have open and compost the tea after steeping.

Carroll
Carroll

December 26, 2021

Well done! Truly grateful for your commitment to caring values, and now can remain to loyal Harney and Sons, thank you!!

Britta
Britta

November 08, 2021

I am so impressed that you listened to the people and the planet and are working so hard to make this change! Especially living in Seattle where we have curbside compost, this will be awesome. In the meantime, I would buy more tea if the loose leaf was available in the decorative tins. Just sayin :)

Jennifer
Jennifer

November 08, 2021

I do have a question about these teabags – I work in compost and waste research and have found that some of the teabags claiming compostability are composting at 180+ days (compost accepted it needs to be under that time frame). Do you know if these bags will compost in how many days/weeks?

Katie
Katie

November 08, 2021

Thank you for going the sugarcane route and not the corn route. As one with a corn allergy, I’m glad that tea companies are moving away from plastics but can’t drink the tea if they end up in corn bags.

Bina K. Malhotra
Bina K. Malhotra

November 08, 2021

Thank you for the update! This is exciting news. I sincerely appreciate the steps you are taking and for the detailed explanation.

Mary
Mary

October 30, 2021

Outstanding! Thank you so much for being part of the environmentally, healthy solution!

Stephen
Stephen

October 30, 2021

I am delighted to hear of the direction you are going with the move toward more biodegradable materials. I’m a retired research fellow in pharmaceutical microbiology. I was introduced to the wonderful world of tea by my Welsh heritaged Dad. I have a little teapot/cup set that sat on my desk at work for almost 40 years and has now sat on my office desk here at home for the last 9 years of retirement; it has made literally thousands of cups of tea and so many of them were Harney & Sons. I can taste the subtle difference between tea prepared loose in the pot versus teabag, but, I want to commend your company on your tea sachets, the taste they allow to develop is close enough to loose tea that I have been a fan since the very first one I used. Over the years I’ve come to use them almost exclusively because it is just so very convenient and easy to enjoy a really really good cup of tea. Well done, keep it up!

Rosemary Hecht
Rosemary Hecht

October 30, 2021

As a business owner myself, I know how costly and time consuming it can be to retro fit and update equipment. I am so incredibly impressed with your efforts to provide your customers with delicious and safe products. I am glad to be one of your customers and happy to support such a conscientious company.

Libby
Libby

October 30, 2021

Thank you for sharing this information!

Linda
Linda

October 30, 2021

Thank you so much for this! I always take the tea out of the teabag and put it into a strainer, I am so concerned about what’s in the tea bag!

Sarah
Sarah

October 30, 2021

Awesome work! Thank you!

Valerie B Snowdon
Valerie B Snowdon

October 30, 2021

Good for you! Really appreciate the time and effort you have put into making such a significant change.
I have switched to loose tea. But at Christmas, I will be gifting your wonderful teas to my friends and family guilt-free!
Aloha Nui.

Diane Knott
Diane Knott

October 30, 2021

This is great news! I hope the new material also makes it easier to squeeze the triangular shape of the sachets, as the nylon makes them slippery and hard to use.

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