Can Tea Bags Be Composted?

teabag compost

As humans, we have used plastic materials in our everyday life since its inception.

But, as times have changed we have discovered that plastic products and by-products can be detrimental to our health and our environment. 

Since sustainability and eco-friendliness has moved to the fore-front of our concerns, plastic products are on their way out. Being green is the new black.

If you are trying to live a plastic-free life by recycling and composting at home, it may surprise you that many of your favorite foods and beverages can contain traces of plastic. 

Drink Tea, Save the Planet

Many people drink tea as a popular choice of beverage.

Tea has been used for many purposes throughout history; it has medicinal values, as well as being rich in antioxidants, promotes weight loss, and can reduce the risk of heart disease. 

There are so many benefits of drinking tea, that it is clear why it is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many of us enjoy tea on a daily basis, and it is often marketed as a ‘healthy’ choice through extensive types of chai, green and loose teas. 

Several teas come in eco-friendly compostable bags, so that you can take pleasure in knowing that you are not destroying the planet by appreciating the beverage.

However, it is important to note that a multitude of tea bags are not compostable. 

Compost is an organic matter that can be added to plants and soil to help gardens thrive and grow.

Using tea leaves and bags in composting is one of the most popular methods to improve garden health. 

In many ways, tea bags can be used as compost to benefit your gardens.

Tea leaves can contain roughly 4.4% nitrogen, 0.25% potassium, and 0.24% phosphorus, making it a great source of nutrients that will stimulate the decomposition process.

Using tea leaves has been hailed as one of the best sources of nutrients for your garden.

How do you tell if the teabags you use can be composted? 

First, you need to identify whether the bag or net is compostable.

Most tea bags are made from natural and degradable fibres, however many tea bag products still contain some plastic which will be difficult to break down and cannot be composted. 

There are typically three different types of tea bag.

There is the ‘traditional’ square or round tea bag with a crimped edge that is made from different woven fibres. The edges of these bags are often made with about 20-30% plastic and would therefore cannot be composted.

Similarly, both tag and string tea bags are stitched shut at the top, but can also contain plastic materials as they help them retain their shape and structure when placed in hot water.  

teabag

Other versions of tea bags are made from ‘silken’ sachets and cannot be composted due to the use of nylon in these products, which can have microplastics within. 

The plastic used by many tea bag manufacturers is called polypropylene.

This is utilized as a sealant that ensures the bag remains sealed when in boiling water and so that the contents never spill out.

To find out if you can compost your teabags you need to discover what your favorite brand’s tea bags are composed of.

Tea bags are generally always listed as compostable but many people will find that the exterior of the bags do not break down within their compost bin. 

In most cases, you can compost tea bags. However, if you are ever unsure, then bear in mind that the contents of the bag, or the tea leaves will always be compostable.

If this is the case, then simply empty the contents of the tea bag into your compost bin and dispose of the netting. This way you are never increasing your waste unnecessarily, and helping create a sustainable lifestyle.

Brands You May Know

A recent study showed that Lipton, Bigelow and Twinings are among the most popular tea bags in the US.

If your favorite tea is Lipton’s Quality Black or Lipton’s Intense tea bags then you are good to go.

These types of teas have a combination of manilla hemp and cellulose fibres that makes their tea bags easily compostable, but not recyclable. 

Other Lipton teas such as their traditional herbal teas and Lipton Green Decaf and Chai are often made from the same materials as the Quality Black, but can contain thermoplastic fibres which makes them unsuitable for recycling or composting. 

Bigelow’s bag and string tea bags are compostable, but cannot be used for recycling.

cuppa tea

On the other hand, if you prefer brands like Twinings, their bags are also not suitable for composting.

Both twinings string and tag types of tea bags are sealed by pressing the paper down, with a small stitch at the top.

These bags are composed of natural plant based fibres like cellulose, but have the addition of plastic-based binders to ensure that the bags do not break apart in hot water. This however, makes them unsuitable for composting. 

However, with the change in how we view sustainability, many tea manufacturers are continually investing in the creation of sustainable and compostable materials for their products, so it is best to keep an eye on which brands can be composted and which cannot. 

Additional Advice

The general rule of thumb is that tea bags are mostly compostable, unless it contains plastic.

If you would like to live a greener lifestyle, and utilise your tea bags for composting make sure to purchase bags that are biodegradable and plastic free!

If your tea bags contain plastic, or if the nets do not break down in your compost bin, simply cut or slice open the net, then you can remove the tea, compost it and dispose of the bag in your regular waste bin.

Conclusion

Using tea bags within your compost is a very sustainable and eco-friendly way of consuming your favorite beverage without damaging the planet.

It is also a perfect way of improving the health of your plants and garden, increasing oxygen levels, maintaining moisture and the structure of your garden. 

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