Is Kratom Eco-Friendly?
In 1971, Marvin Gaye crooned his environmental anthem “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology).” He probably wasn’t thinking about how to recycle packaging when he included the chorus:
Regardless, our awareness of the devastating effects of pollution and the exorbitant emission of greenhouse gasses on our planet for the past fifty years hasn’t resulted in serious society-led environmental action.
Today, we face a number of environmental crises that are too large, complex, and multi-variable for any individual to grasp entirely, let alone act upon infallibly. Marvin Gaye was right in 1971, and remains right today. Oil and other fossil fuels have been relentlessly polluting our planet in its various forms before, during, and since releasing his song.
The oceans contain over 269,000 tonnes of plastic waste. In a few years, there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than animal life. Everyday we discover microplastics in places they’ve never been found before.
Microplastics have been detected in human blood, the stomachs of baby sea turtles, even on the summit of Mt. Everest. The ubiquity of plastic is front of mind for many environmentalists.
Because of how common plastic is, it is good to understand the process that goes into manufacturing it. We must also learn what to do with plastic when it has reached the end of its lifespan.
In this post, we’ll be discussing the rationale behind our decision to change our packaging, how to reduce, reuse, and recycle the pouches, and where we have room to improve.
Why Did We Stop Using Kraft Bags?
Our original packaging used a plastic-lined, food grade paper kraft bag. You can pull the plastic from the paper and discard it. This allows you to recycle the paper separately. On the original packaging we were also printing our labels for the front and back separately. These stickers were not recyclable, unfortunately.
The paper-plastic composition of the pouches required a lot of work by you to make it recyclable. It seemed to us that the kraft bag paper-plastic hybrid would be more eco-friendly than an all plastic alternative. Unfortunately, the paper-plastic composition actually made it less eco-friendly than a 100% plastic recyclable pouch. This is due to how difficult it is to recycle properly versus the all-plastic version.
Our New Print-On Recyclable Plastic Pouches
Top Tree’s new, print-on recyclable plastic pouches are produced by e-Pac, a packaging company in Boulder, Colorado. Our new pouches are manufactured using HP digital printers.
These printers consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gasses than traditional printers. The polymer-based inks that e-Pac uses are compostable and do not contain hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
The plastic bags themselves are #2 High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), which is the least energy intensive plastic to manufacture, as well as one of the most recyclable.
ePac’s quick-drying and environmentally friendly lamination process keeps Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) out of your kratom tea and the atmosphere. We manufacture our pouches locally. That means we’ve managed to cut several lengthy flights from our supply chain.
Before we carry on with this post, we should emphasize that we are not defending the use of plastic. We recognize that our recyclable plastic pouches still have a non-zero chance of being buried in a landfill, lost to sea, or burned. Even recycling the bags requires energy and reduces the utility of the plastic material.
We need to phase out plastic globally. Even as we introduce our new pouches, we have plans for our next, more sustainable iteration already.
Benefits of our New Pouches for our Tea
While plastic has negative ecological effects, it is one of the best materials for food preservation. The recyclable pouch is FDA compliant for direct food contact, and helps keep your tea fresh for longer. Unlike our previous kraft pouches, our new bags are now water-proof instead of simply water-resistant.
As mentioned above, one of the main benefits of the new pouches that motivated us to make the switch was the incremental step towards a more sustainable product line. With the introduction of these new bags, you no longer have to prepare your pouch to be recycled prior to discarding it. Simply deposit it anywhere that accepts #2 plastics.
How to Reuse our Kratom Tea Bag Pouches
While recycling is the keyword that gets all the buzz, it is not the most environmentally friendly thing to do with your pouch once you finish brewing your final kratom tea bag. First, you should look for a way to reuse your pouches!
Reusing our pouches is the most eco-friendly way to put it to use after emptying it of its tea. When you reuse the pouches, you avoid the energy expenditure that goes into transporting the plastic to the recycling facility and the heat used to melt and reform the plastic.
You also avoid the fuel used to transport the recycled plastic to a new manufacturer, the energy employed by the manufacturing in repurposing the recycled plastic, and finally, the energy used to ship the recycled plastic goods to market.
By reusing the plastic pouch, you circumvent the energy employed in the recycling process. Plus, you get to have, in our opinion, an awesome looking pouch to reuse for a variety of purposes. Here are our recommendations for reusing the pouch:
- Waterproof case for your phone when lounging around the pool, doing water sports, or hiking in the rain.
- Sexy alternative to a Ziploc bag
- Smell-proof bag for your other traditional herbs
- Storage for odds and ends
- Keeper for travel wipes
- DIY ice pack
- Freezer bag for store fruits and vegetables
Plastic recycling, by-and-large, is a scam. That is not to say that there is no plastic recycling that is worth the time and effort, but it will take more work on your part to ensure that it is handled appropriately.
We deeply regret forgetting to label the bags with the appropriate plastic resin recycling code. Unfortunately, this places the onus of seeing that the bags are correctly recycled on you. Simply recycle our pouches anywhere they accept #2 and #4 plastics.
Unlike more common forms of rigid plastic, #2 and #4 resin code plastics are not usually accepted via curbside recycling programs. To recycle these plastics, you’ll need to find a local drop off center near you. Luckily, there are a number of databases which can quickly and easily direct you to the one nearest you.
Go to https://bagandfilmrecycling.org/ to kick off your recycling habit!
Each Iteration is More Sustainable
We founded Top Tree Herbs to help establish a new approach to kratom – one based on traditional practices, a genuine love for kratom, and the desire to support our community. Our love of brewing kratom tea infused us with the energy needed to bootstrap our way into the kratom world.
From the start, we’ve been passionate about creating an ethical and sustainable kratom brand which focuses on re-educating the public on kratom and normalizing the consumption of this traditional beverage. However, we do not want to do that at the expense of the health of the planet.
This is why we always push to make our company more sustainable with every step as we scale. Unfortunately, the greenest, most eco-friendly options are unavailable to small, cash-strapped companies.
Thankfully, we’ve received wonderful feedback from our customers about our tea, and we are growing as a result. As Top Tree grows, we are committed to boosting our sustainability measures until we are using only 100% compostable materials and offsetting our carbon footprint from shipping and manufacturing.
Cheap, single use, non-recyclable plastics would be the best option for our bottom line. But we strongly believe that there is no point in being successful if it means living with plastic oceans and toxic wastelands.
Plastic-Free Top Tree Tea Bags
If you’ve been using our kratom tea bags for the last few years, you probably noticed we recently switched to new tea bag material. The change is exciting for a few reasons. The new tea bag material is one of the only plastic free, biodegradable, and compostable options on the market. It’s made from non-GMO sugarcane with no chemical additives, so there won’t be any microplastics or trace chemicals in your tea.
Although there are exceptions, many paper tea bags contain a type of plastic that helps make a strong seal. In the past few years, researchers have tested tea brewed using these paper tea bags and found surprisingly high levels of microplastics in the finished tea. Switching to plastic-free, 100% USDA BioBiased tea bags is obviously a welcomed improvement.
The cherry on top is that the tea bags are produced in the US and are fully compostable in 14 to 21 days. Let’s dive into a few different ways to approach composting your kratom tea bags.
Composting Kratom Tea Bags
Luckily, the majority of what you receive when you order our kratom tea bags is compostable already. After you brew your tea (and do a double brew with the same tea bags!), you can compost the spent tea bags. Either place them in your compost heap, bury them in your garden, or simply drop them off at your local compost center. Composting is the most sustainable way to dispose of your “trash.”
When you compost our tea bags, you are actually doing a number of beneficial things for the environment. For starters, you are preventing the anaerobic decomposition of the tea bags in a landfill, which produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Secondly, you are returning nutrients to the soil, which allows for carbon-sequestering plants to grow more vigorously. And finally, since compost is usually a locally-run and organized process, you are skipping out on all the energy needed to transport trash to landfills.
Looking Forward – the Kratom Industry as a Green Industry
The kratom industry is a rapidly growing sector of the international economy. As kratom explodes in popularity, more countries will begin to vie for a share in the profits. We’ve already seen this with Thailand’s recent re-legalization of kratom and their promotion of the industry.
In short, what this means is that more trees are being planted. Kratom is a rapidly-growing tree. This means it is continually pulling carbon dioxide from the air to grow, generate leaves, and produce the alkaloids that we know and love. Each time the leaves are harvested, the kratom tree has to sequester more carbon to regrow its foliage.
So, as the kratom industry grows, so too will the amount of carbon dioxide being scrubbed from the atmosphere by kratom trees. If you take the time to learn how to recycle the kratom packaging, you’ll be making it even more eco-friendly.
Global Trade and Shipping Kratom
The issue with the kratom industry is that while the trees are mainly grown in Southeast Asia, the market is primarily situated in North America. In short, kratom leaves have to embark on a journey halfway around the world on a gas-guzzling cargo ship.
At the end of the day, we want to emphasize that we take being eco-friendly and sustainable seriously, as if our lives depended on it — because they do. The kratom industry has a great start in being one of the greenest Consumer Packaged Goods categories in the world. Our focus now is on seeing this mission through.