Composting Tea Bags:
Can You Discard Them the Natural Way?
Every household needs to do its part to reduce how much waste is sent to landfills.
If this is a sentiment that you agree with, then you may be wondering if you can help by composting tea bags.
More importantly, is such a process even possible?
Well, there isn’t one right answer to this question. Since there are so many producers of tea bags, you do have to dig a little to get to the truth.
So, let’s get started…
Are Tea Bags Compostable?
The short answer to this question would be: No.
At least, not yet, anyway.
This is because most tea bags contain at least some plastic in them.
Certain premium bags use nylon or PET plastic. These most definitely can’t be used during composting.
Even tea bags that are largely made up of natural materials still contain a small amount of plastic.
Most companies use plastic to seal their tea bags.
Due to this, many tea bags aren’t suitable for composting.
Can You Use Tea Leaves as Fertilizer?
It is just as important to know if tea leaves can be used as a fertilizer.
Well, the answer here is pretty straightforward – you absolutely can.
Both fresh and used tea leaves contain tannic acid and nutrients that can improve soil quality.
It should be noted that not all plants will respond well to soil enriched with tea.
This is because tea leaves can decrease the pH of the soil, making it more acidic.
Thus, you should only use tea leaves for plants that can be grown in acidic soil. Don’t use it for plants that require alkaline or neutral soils.
Biodegradable vs. Compostable – Understanding the Difference
Some brands have scrambled to find alternatives for the plastic currently used in tea bags.
In doing so, they have reached out to biodegradable plastics.
So, can these tea bags be composed? No, they can’t.
There is a difference between biodegradable and compostable.
Biodegradable plastic items contain microorganisms that cause the plastic to break down.
At the end of the day, though, most experts would classify them as plastics.
As such, they have no business being in your garden.
Compostable items, on the other hand, are ones that are made from natural – often plant-based – sources.
These can be broken down into essential components and provide an advantage for your garden.
Thus, just because a tea brand claims that its tea bags are biodegradable doesn’t mean that it is compostable.
Which Tea Bags Do Not Contain Plastic?
Needless to say, if you do want use your tea bags for composing, you need to find a plastic-free brand.
Here are the most popular tea manufacturers and brands. Let’s see how they hold up:
Are Lipton Tea Bags Compostable?
It is very difficult to get answers about Lipton’s tea bags.
The only real information available regarding these is that the Lipton Black and Intense bags are made from Manilla hemp and cellulose.
However, there aren’t any supporting details to show that the tea bags are compostable.
Are Twinings Tea Bags Compostable?
According to the company statement, Twinings will ensure that all their tea bags will be made from a new type of paper that is biodegradable.
However, Twinings does make the distinction that these bags will degrade only in “local authority composting”.
The company states that it is still trying to come up with a tea bag material that will decompose in a home compost.
Do Teavana Tea Bags Contain Plastic?
Teavana tea bags do fall under the premium label mentioned previously.
Due to these, the tea bags are made from nylon.
This means that they aren’t biodegradable or compostable.
Are Celestial Seasonings Tea Bags Compostable?
There is some evidence to show that Celestial Seasonings are conducting trials to create plastic-free and hopefully compostable tea bags.
At this time, however, the company still uses a small amount of food-grade polypropylene fibers to heat-seal their tea bags.
Do Bigelow Tea Bags Contain Plastic?
Bigelow does mention that its tea bags are made from sustainably resourced paper.
They mention that the tea bag packaging which is made from the same paper is recyclable and biodegradable.
Nonetheless, the company doesn’t state that its tea bags can decompose or be composted specifically.
How to Select Plastic-Free Tea Bags?
As you can see, there is quite a bit of confusion surrounding which popular tea brands do or don’t contain plastic.
This is often because brands that do rely on even a small amount of plastic in their tea bags are hesitant to mention it.
So, how can you which brand to choose? Here are some tips:
Know Your Plastic-Free Brands
The easiest option for you is to educate yourself on the top plastic-free brands. They are as follows:
- Brew Tea Co.
- We Are Tea
- Hampstead Tea
- Nemi Tea
- Good & Proper Tea
Keep in mind that just because a brand may offer biodegradable tea bags, doesn’t mean that these bags are compostable.
This is because some bags can take longer to decompose than others. Thus, you will need to drop these tea bags off in local composting plants.
Reach Out to Brands
If you aren’t willing to switch brands or require greater clarification, your best option is to reach out to these tea brands.
Email them a list of pointed questions regarding what is used in their tea bags.
If you aren’t happy with the replies, don’t hesitate to contact them again.
As a consumer, it is your right to know exactly what you are using.
How to Use Tea Bags in Your Garden
If your tea bags are plastic-free and compostable, then they can be directly added to your garden.
Once the tea bags have been used for steeping, allow them to cool.
Find the plants that are most likely to benefit from the acidity provided by the tea leaves. These
leaves can also help with moisture retention and weed suppression as well.
Then, it is simply a matter of planting the tea bags near the root system.
Start with just one tea bag, especially if you are placing them near a smaller plant.
So, there you have it, all that you need to know about composting tea bags. Once you get your hands on compostable tea bags, it is simply a matter of adding them to your garden and watching your plants flourish.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.