Can You Compost Tea Bags? Are They Biodegradable?

After making and enjoying your tea, what do you do with the tea bag? If you have a composting bin or worm bin, it is a great idea to compost the tea bags after use, but as you’re about to find out, not all tea bags are suitable for this.

You can compost tea bags to enrich the carbon-laden organic material in your worm bin or compost bin with nitrogen. However, make sure the tea bags are made of biodegradable material such as muslin, paper, or silk before adding them to the compost heap. Do not add tea bags made of fine plastic in your compost.

Below I’ve discussed why it is good for tea bags to go in your compost bin and also gone ahead to point out which brands are safe for worm bins and which ones are not.

Can you compost tea bags in a bin?

It is okay to add 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 the bag itself as advised on the product label.

Can you compost tea bags

Some manufacturers use some fine plastics in the packaging of tea bags, making them non-biodegradable. Such tea bags do not go in the worm bin or composting bin because the organisms will not be able to eat them.

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.

What to Look for

  • Metal staples on tea bags: You’ll notice some tea bags sealed using metal staples. These little pieces of metal are not biodegradable and you should not put them in your worm bin.
  • Plastic-free packaging: If you want to put tea bags in your compost, make sure you find out whether the packaging has plastic or not. One place to check is the label. If it says 100% plastic free, then the tea bag goes into the worm bin safely.

Most brands may not indicate on the label if they use plastic in their packaging material. So, if you’re big on composting in your kitchen and garden and would like to add tea leaves to your composting bin, reach out to the company that makes your favorite tea and ask them that question.

Benefits of Tea in Compost

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. Tea also contains phosphorus, potassium as well as other minerals that are important for the growth and development of plants.

Biodegradable and Nylon Tea Bags

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

However, even biodegradable tea bags may not be the best thing to compost because the material decomposes at a slower rate than other material 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’s has non-biodegradable sealants. It may decompose, but will take a long time to break down.

It is safe to put these products after use in the composting bin, but you should not expect them to break down into plant nutrients soon enough.

Nylon Material

Some tea bags are packaged using nylon material. Some of it may not appear as though it is nylon, but when you add it to your composting bin or worm bin, it will 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 on their compost heaps.

Which tea bags do not contain plastic?

Studies by the 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.

To know which tea bags do not contain any plastic and are safe for composting, you may need to contact the manufacturer for clarification. In that light, I did some digging around to see which tea bags are safe for your compost bin.

Here are tea bags that do not have plastic in their packaging material:

  • Qi Tea – this is a compostable tea bag because it uses veggie ink and other biodegradable material. However, the envelope wrapper contains some nylon material that keeps the tea fresh for long.
  • Lipton tea: Being a major brand, we keep getting the question are Lipton tea bags compostable? The answer is yes for the Quality Black and Intense options only because the bags are made of manilla hemp and cellulose fibers.
  • Pukka: Uses organic cotton to make their tea bag packaging without the need to use polypropylene to firm it up.

Other plastic free, compostable tea bags include Tetley, Tazo, Bigelow, Nature’s Cuppa Organic, Higher Living Teas, and Dilmah Organic.

Compost Loose Tea Leaves

As you can see, there are some tea bags that you can put in your compost, but there’s always the chance of environmental pollution in your garden.

It may take a long process to determine which tea bags are biodegradable and which ones are not.

I would recommend tearing up the used tea bag and emptying the moist tea into the compost instead of throwing the entire stringed tea bag into the worm bin,

If you have the need to add tea leaves for nitrogen injection in your compost heap, try using loose tea leaves and dumping them in your compost every now and then. It is much safer.