When it comes to drinks, most of us are tea lovers due to the wide selection of teas available today and the health benefits that come with it. But the question lies in the tea bags that we use: are they compostable? Can we put them in a composting bin or sent them to a local composting facility?
The answer to that and how to compost tea bags will be in this article. As we consume our favorite beverages, it is also important that we know what we are throwing away to the environment to avoid polluting our oceans with non-biodegradable materials and overfilling our local landfills sooner or later.
So, if you want to know how to compose tea bags, read on below to find out the steps, as well as background information on which tea bags are compostable.
Are Tea Bags Compostable?
While the general answer is “no”, the more specific answer is that “it depends on the teabag”. That’s because tea bags vary in terms of manufacturer and therefore, they all use different raw materials.
For example, some tea bags are entirely made of eco-friendly materials, such as paper or recycled paper. Other manufacturers, however, use a few plastic materials to strengthen their teabag so that it doesn’t quickly rip apart when you dip it into hot water.
With that said, manufacturing tea bags is a tricky process. The manufacturer needs to make sure that the tea leaves won’t go into the actual tea. However, there goes the question of eco-friendliness, in which some commercial brands of tea bags are at a disadvantage (we’ll get to that later below).
It is important to check the teabag that you buy and its composition. Traditionally, tea bags are made with filter paper or silk cotton so that they mimic the usage of a tea infuser. Since a tea infuser is not something that everyone has in their home, manufacturers thought of an easy way to get tea instantly – through teabags.
However, with modern technology rising, manufacturing processes have started including food-grade plastic made from oil to enhance the durability of the tea bag and cut the costs. This stirred some controversy among the environment buffs out there.
Therefore, nowadays, you’ll see many independent manufacturers making alternative tea bags that are purely made of eco-friendly, biodegradable, or compostable material. Although these tea bags are still pricier than your usual store-bought tea bag brands, they will be a great step towards eco-friendliness in general.
Do Tea Bags Contain Plastic?
It depends – not all teabags contain plastic, but some of them do. Chances are, if you ever come across store-bought or commercial brand tea bags, you’ll find that they have plastic in the composition. Don’t worry as this is food-grade plastic and was made specifically for tea bags.
The problem here is that even this little amount of plastic will find its way into the dumpsite and the belly of whales and turtles out in the sea. Such plastic might not degrade as fast as biodegradable materials like paper or anything plant-based.
If you want to make sure whether the tea bag you have contains plastic or not, check the label – if you find polypropylene listed in the material then that’s a sign for plastic material.
As mentioned above, it won’t technically affect your health since it was made to be food-grade plastic. What’s more, tea bags usually only have around 0.04 grams of plastic in their tea bag so that’s a little breather. However, when you put together a lot of tea bags from all sorts of people and countries from around the world, you still get compiled plastic waste in the long run.
Which Tea Bag Brands are Compostable?
So, with all the many teabag manufacturers out there, which ones are compostable and which ones aren’t? Here’s a list of manufacturers that have tea bags that you can use for composting (either with a backyard setup or on your local facility):
This tea brand comes from New Orleans and is part of the Reily Foods Company. Natural wood pulps are used in making Luzianne tea bags, which means that they are compostable. Moreover, the tea bags are free from chlorine processes so which adds to their eco-friendliness.
Bigelow Tea Company
The Bigelow Tea Company uses the traditional string and tag design for their teabag. However, they are all made of paper and woven fibers. The tea bag is compostable and on top of that, their teas are made without any pesticides.
Distributed b Prairie Farms, Red Diamond is a tea brand that makes tea bags made from paper. This paper is combined with a small amount of wet strength agent and a few synthetic fibers, which makes it still compostable and okay for a landfill. Their tea bag presents no hazard to the environment or human health.
One of the biggest distributors of teas around the world, Celestial Seasonings comes from North America, specifically Boulder, Colorado. Their tea bags are manufactured without chlorine, starch, or gluten, so they are both eco-friendly and allergy-friendly. Their tea bags are completely compostable.
Cellulose fibers, coming from wood, is used to make Stash teabags. Furthermore, they don’t use chlorine in their paper nor do they use epichlorohydrin, which is a known carcinogen and could cause lung problems. Since their tea bags are machine-folded and pressed, no glue is used.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea
When it comes to Peet’s “Mighty Leaf Tea”, they are made from plant-based resources and do not contain petroleum products or synthetic materials. They are all compostable without traces of epichlorohydrin or phthalates. However, unlike the majority of tea bags listed here, their tea bags should be composted in a facility because they need high temperatures to degrade.
PG Tips’ tea bags are made from plant-based material and are therefore biodegradable and can be composted at home. Corn starch is used to make their tea bags.
Lyons Tea bags are also made from cornstarch so they are biodegradable and compostable. They can be added to your compost bin at home or in a facility and you’ll do your part for the environment after enjoying a great cup of tea.
If you prefer new eco-friendly brands, consider Teapigs as they use cornstarch and their inner Natureflex bag can be used as compost material. Aside from that, these bags are also made with renewable wood pulp.
If a tea company isn’t listed here, chances are, their tea bags aren’t exactly compostable, whether in a backyard or a facility.
How to Compost Tea Bags
Now that you’ve done your research on your tea bag brand, it’s time to work on your project: turning the tea bag into fertilizer. Teabags, if they are compostable, will help your soil and plants to grow healthier under the right conditions.
To begin your tea bag compost project, you will need the following:
- Tea bags
- A composting bin or bucket
- A cultivator (3-tined)
Here’s how to compost your tea bags easily:
- Cool the tea bag down after it has been completely used.
- Put the tea bags into the compost bucket along with other organic food waste.
- Place or dump them into the composting bin or area.
- Cover them lightly.
Teabags can also be used around plants to add moisture and help with their root growth. Aside from that, they could even aid in keeping weeds away.
If your tea bag is meant to be composted at a facility, by all means don’t take your chances on a backyard setup because it will take forever to degrade. Instead, take the tea bags to your local composting facility or landfill and they will take care of them.
Aside from that, if you aren’t sure if your tea bag is made of plastic or not, you can just empty the tea bag and compost the tea leaves instead.
Should Tea Bags Go with Food Waste?
That depends on the composition of the teabag. If the tea bag contains plastic then it shouldn’t go with the food waste since it isn’t completely biodegradable. If you are not sure whether your tea bag contains plastic or not, the safest way to dispose of them is to put them in a recycling container for your local composting facility or landfill to handle.
In the long run, composting tea bags has its benefits. You get to enjoy a sip of afternoon tea and you can also help the environment by putting back the tea bag into the soil as fertilizer. However, always keep in mind that not all tea bags are made equal – some contain plastic and therefore cannot be used for backyard composting.
When in doubt, it’s best to contact your local landfill or composting facility to make sure you are composting tea bags the right way. Or, you can ask them if they have a specific setup for that so you can just give them the tea bags instead.