Sachet Material Update

by Emeric Harney October 29, 2021 2 min read 12 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


12 Responses

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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