Are Tea Bags Compostable? Are They Biodegradable?

Tea leaves are rich in nitrogen, a beneficial nutrient for plant growth. Adding tea bags to your compost is a great way of enriching the organic fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals.

If you have a composting bin or worm bin, it might seem like a great idea to throw used tea bags in there, but as you’re about to find out, not all tea bags are made the same. So, can you compost tea bags? Which ones?

Yes, tea bags are compostable, but only the organic containing muslin, paper, or silk are biodegradable. Conventional tea bags contain plastic in their packaging, making them non-compostable. It is best to tear the filter and add the tea to compost with other food scraps and leftovers.

Can you compost tea bags

Do not add tea bags made of fine plastic to your compost. A good example is Tazo, made of hemp filter bags that don’t decompose.

Which tea bags are compostable?

There are so many brands of tea on the market today, and you’ll rarely find them labeled as biodegradable or not. Before adding these to your compost heap or bin, you want to make sure the material of the filter and string will decompose.

Here’s a table showing some brands of tea that are compostable and those that are not:

Tea bag brandCompostable?
LiptonPartially
TAZO®No
TwinningsNo
Celestial SeasoningsYes
Bigelow Yes
YogiYes
Trader Joe’sYes

Note: The brands I’ve labeled partially compostable in the table may contain some tea bag products that may not be biodegradable. I recommend you break the filter and pour the tea itself onto your compost.

If you’re unsure of the material, simply break the tea bag’s filter and pour the contents into your compost for decomposition.

Can you compost tea bags in a bin?

It is okay to add tea bags to your compost if the packaging is made of biodegradable material. If the bags are made of fine plastic that does not decompose, tear them open and pour the moist tea on your compost heap. Dispose of the bag itself as advised on the product label.

Some manufacturers use fine plastics in the packaging of tea bags, making them non-biodegradable.

Plastic harms worms and other organisms, so it is a good idea not to add such bags to your worm bin.

To determine whether you can compost tea bags, you will have to look deeper into the brand you’re using to see if it has any plastic material used to make the bag itself.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Metal staples on tea bags: Some tea bags are sealed using metal staples. These are not biodegradable; do not put them in your worm bin.
  • Plastic-free packaging: check the label- if it says 100% plastic free, then the tea bag safely goes into the worm bin.

Most brands may not indicate on the label if they use plastic in their packaging material. Do your research or reach out to the company to find out.

Biodegradable vs nylon tea bags

Biodegradable tea bags are those that decompose and are safe for the environment. You can add them to your compost and they will be broken down by the worms and other microorganisms in your compost.

However, even biodegradable tea bags may not be the best to compost because the material decomposes slower than other materials in the compost heap.

Here’s why some biodegradable tea bags may still not be suitable for your compost:

  • Tea bags made of silk or cloth are very hard to decompose and will take very long to break down and add value to your compost.
  • Some tea bags are made of paper that has non-biodegradable sealants. While the paper may decompose, it will take longer to break down.

Nylon

Nylon does not decompose

Some studies have shown that “Fertilizer produced from household waste contained 20 to 146 plastic particles per kilogram…” which owes to most people adding nylon materials from products such as tea bags to their compost heaps.

Which tea bags do not contain plastic?

Studies by McGill University have shown that steeping some tea bags in a cup of water at a temperature of about 95 produces an astonishing 11.6 billion microplastics.

I researched to find out which tea bags are safe for your compost bin.

Here’s the list:

  • Qi Tea – it uses veggie ink and other biodegradable material. However, the envelope wrapper contains some nylon material.
  • Lipton tea is compostable, but only the Quality Black and Intense options. The bags are made of manilla hemp and cellulose fibers.
  • Pukka: Uses organic cotton to make their tea bag packaging without using polypropylene to firm it up.

Conclusion

You can compost tea bags to enrich the carbon-laden organic material in your compost bin with nitrogen. However, only tea bags that are made of 100% biodegradable material will decompose and add nutrients to your compost.

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