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Sugarcane Nylon - Compostable Sachets Update 2023

by Mike Harney January 04, 2023 3 min read 9 Comments

Sugarcane Nylon - Compostable Sachets Update 2023

We are getting serious about the transition away from nylon. For the last few weeks, over 90% of our sachets are made from compostable sugarcane. Over time, we will complete this transition. We are still running Hot Cinnamon in the old nylon sachets. Over time, we will run trials for that.

Below is a refresher on our last 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.

 

Mike Harney
Mike Harney


9 Responses

JimaLee
JimaLee

January 25, 2023

Thank you! I really appreciate the update. And I recognize the difficulties in moving away from plastic and into a sustainable solution. What a challenge for all of us, on all fronts. I also want to thank you for working toward a better solution for packaging. These are the efforts that will continue to make me look to Harney’s for all my tea. Don’t you love Harney’s?!?

Wanda Pease
Wanda Pease

January 25, 2023

This is good news although I am not a fan of the movement against GMO crops except that the rule that allowed the genes of natural organisms to be patented (I alone have a lifetime patent on the genes that make up me!). Still the move to a completely compostable material is wonderful!

Mark
Mark

January 25, 2023

paper would be better. tagless. no glue. no staples.

Dawn Traver
Dawn Traver

January 25, 2023

Thank you so much for your efforts to change your teas’ packaging. I’d love to be able to throw the whole used teabag into my compost bin one day.

Elizabeth Crick
Elizabeth Crick

January 25, 2023

Very commendable!
Will you please consider allowing the purchase of tea bags as a refill to your tins? I really hate just throwing out your tins; I like the look of them and would really like to refill them, with the same tea when I finish the tin. It also would be the environmentally best thing to do!

I hope you will seriously consider this suggestion! What I do now is re-buy a same name tea, different company, to fill my Harney tin. I would much rather support you!

Sincerely,
Elizabeth

Jody
Jody

January 25, 2023

Love this update! It’s cool to see how you folks are trying to keep your products both healthy for consumers and for the world we were given to steward. :) Thanks for your hard work on this!

Carolyn Lowe
Carolyn Lowe

January 25, 2023

I cannot imagine what it is like trying to keep up with regulations, be a conscientious manufacturer, a good employer, be cost efficient, and please your customers.. Hats off to you! Thanks for supplying excellent products!

Pat O'Brien
Pat O'Brien

January 25, 2023

Bravo and congrats on your efforts in making the shift to materials that are less harmful to the planet. Thank you!

Dan Herrera
Dan Herrera

January 25, 2023

Love Science and the focus you guys have on moving to a earth friendly sachet material. Also love your Earl Grey so win, win! Keep up the great work.

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