All biodegradable tea bags may not degrade, can harm environment: Study

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All biodegradable tea bags may not degrade, can harm the environment: Study

New Delhi, May 28 (IANS): Not all biodegradable tea bags made using corn starch or sugar cane, and promoted as superior alternatives to plastic, break down in the soil, according to a recent study. This study highlights the potential harm these tea bags may pose to terrestrial species and the environment.

Researchers from the universities of Plymouth and Bath in the UK conducted a study on commonly available tea bags made using three different compositions of polylactic acid (PLA). These tea bags were buried in the soil for seven months.

It was observed that tea bags made solely from PLA remained completely intact. On the other hand, tea bags made from a combination of cellulose and PLA broke down into smaller pieces, losing between 60 and 80 percent of their overall mass, with the PLA component remaining.

Winnie Courtene-Jones, the lead author from the University of Plymouth, emphasized the increasing use of biodegradable plastics like PLA in various products to address the plastic waste issue. However, the study underscores the necessity for more evidence on the degradation and potential impacts of such materials before their widespread adoption to prevent generating new environmental issues if not disposed of properly.

The researchers also assessed the effects of the tea bag discs on earthworms, particularly Eisenia fetida, a species crucial for soil nutrient turnover due to its consumption of organic matter. The findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, revealed that exposing earthworms to different concentrations of tea bag discs led to an increase in mortality of up to 15 percent. Additionally, certain concentrations of PLA had adverse effects on earthworm reproduction.

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