Do you want to know if you can compost old tea bags? This composting single-use tea bag guide discusses which bags should be composted and which should not.
Are you a tea enthusiast who also wants to be more eco-friendly in the kitchen? We’re in the same boat as you! However, check that the brew bag doesn’t include any components that can’t be broken down before dumping it into the compost bin.
Compostable tea bags are made from biodegradable materials and do not include any plastic or metal. Unfortunately, many bottled teas include small amounts of non-compostable plastic or metal staples.
To determine if you can compost your tea bags, first learn how they’re made, what materials they’re made of, and which tea bags are naturally biodegradable.
Are you looking for information on which tea bags may be composted? Let’s get this party started!
Table of Contents
- What are tea bags made of?
- How tea bags are made
- How to compost tea bags
- Compostable tea bag brands
- Eco-friendly alternatives to tea bags
- More zero waste kitchen + composting tips
What are tea bags made of?
Tea bags are little sachets constructed of permeable materials that retain loose leaves and herbs within while enabling hot water to pass through (and produce your tasty tea!).
The perfumes and nutritional advantages of whatever mix of ingestible herbs, flowers, tea leaves, and other components are within the tea bag can be infused into the water using this method. Tea bags are created from a range of materials, the most of which are not biodegradable. However, because there are many biodegradable choices available, it’s critical to have a basic grasp of how tea bags are created — and, more crucially, what they’re composed of — in order to determine whether or not they’re compostable.
How tea bags are made
When it comes to preparing tea, there are a few key ingredients:
- The tea bag’s actual substance
- Materials that help to keep the bag together
- Inside, there’s a herbal and leaf infusion.
- The cotton-based threads attached
There are many different ways to make tea bag materials and subsequent filler products.
Materials for tea bags
Tea infusions require porous material, which may be obtained in a variety of methods, some of which are more environmentally friendly than others.
The following are the most often used materials in the production of tea bags:
- Filter paper: Filter paper tea bags are created from organic pulp, such as Manila hemp, that is molded into the shape of a bag. Filter paper is a biodegradable and compostable substance.
- Plastic: Some tea bags are made of special plastic that allows water to pass through (however, research shows these materials release billions of microplastic particles into every cup). Plastic is not a biodegradable substance, hence it cannot be composted.
- Silk: Silk is another type of material used to make tea bags, however it is not as popular as it once was owing to cost and production issues. Silk is a biodegradable and compostable substance. Silk tea bags, on the other hand, are not suited for vegans because silk is manufactured from silk worms.
Sealants for tea bags
Whatever materials are used, all tea bags must include a way for closing the bag to keep the tea or herbal components within from spilling out as the tea steeps. Some of these methods have no effect on its biodegradability, whereas others are not formed of organic components and hence cannot be composted.
Tea bag sealing techniques and materials include:
- Folding: Some tea bags are folded in such a manner that they stay closed when steeping. Compostable bags are available.
- Other tea bags rely on the thread as a tie to keep the bag closed. Because the strings are frequently composed of cotton, they may be composted at home.
- Glue is used to secure and link the strings of several popular tea bags. Plastic sealants such as polypropylene, which is biodegradable but takes longer to degrade, are frequently used in these glues.
- Metal staples: Tea bags are occasionally held together with metal clips or staples. The metal cannot be composted, but it may be removed before discarding the teabag.
Components of tea bag filling (tea + herbs)
The ingredients that go into creating the distinctive aromas and sweet, savory, or bitter flavors of different teas can be rather complicated. There are a variety of mixes made up of diverse plant components ranging from roots to petals.
At least one or a combination of the following are likely to be found in each individual tea bag:
- Tea leaves
- Tea buds
The contents of a tea bag are usually entirely dried organic materials, therefore the tea fillings are biodegradable even if the bag is not. So, if you have a non-compostable tea satchel, you may cut it open and compost the tea and herbs within.
How to compost tea bags
Tea bags ideal for composting can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to decompose, depending on the nature of your soil, seasonal temperature, and how deeply you bury your tea bag.
Water has a critical part in the breakdown of all organic molecules, therefore the decomposition process starts the minute you steep your tea bag. Bacteria and fungus, as well as bigger species like worms, carry on the process in your compost pile, gradually deconstructing your tea bag into a deconstructed mix of chemicals like carbon dioxide.
This is when plastic might become a hindrance. If your tea bag is composed of a combination of plastics, it will keep its shape for many years and never break down completely. Instead, the tea bag will be broken down into small plastic fragments that will someday infiltrate the watershed or even become a part of the plants you raise in your garden. These plants, as well as the plastic, would subsequently be consumed.
Compostable tea bag brands
While all tea bag filler material can be composted, not all tea bags should be included. This is because the trace amounts of plastic and metal found in certain tea bags will never degrade, causing hazardous pollutants to build up in the soil.
While using zero waste techniques for making tea is desirable (for options, see the section below), there are certain pre-made bags that can be composted.
When looking for biodegradable tea bags, seek for the following:
- No plastic sealants
- No staples
- 100% plant-based materials
There are a few tea companies that are dedicated to offering 100% plastic-free, biodegradable tea bags. (affiliate links) are a few of these brands:
Eco-friendly alternatives to tea bags
Fortunately, steeping your tea without the use of tea bags can be absolutely waste-free, and has been for generations.
Consider the following eco-friendly options:
- Reusable metal loose leaf tea infusers: A reusable metal tea infuser is the most environmentally friendly alternative to tea bags. While there are several silicone choices on the market, silicone can leak plastic into your tea water when subjected to high heat (as is the case when steeping any tea). This is why metal is the most suitable material. It’s also more durable and easy to clean.
- Reusable cotton tea bags: If you like the appearance and feel of a traditional tea bag, reusable organic cotton tea bags are available on the market that will endure for a long time before needing to be composted.
- Teapots: Entire ceremonies revolve around the pouring of tea, which has been done without the use of special, pre-sealed bags for millennia. Consider a conventional teapot with an infuser built in.
- Tea crystals: Tea crystals are comparable to loose leaf tea but do not require a container. Instead, the crystals dissolve in your hot water, infusing it with a blend of extracted tastes and nourishment from raw sources. Pique Tea crystals are a convenient alternative to bagged teas while you’re on the run.
More zero waste kitchen + composting tips
Do you want to learn more about becoming green in the kitchen? With these sustainable kitchen guides, we’ve got you covered: