Can Tea Bags Be Composted? (Answered and Explained)

According to Euromonitor International, a leading market research provider, about 3.7 billion cups of tea are consumed worldwide on a daily basisTeaUSA, an industry association, claims that on any given day, half of all Americans consume at least one cup of tea.

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I don’t know about you, but to me, that feels like a lot of teabags are going into the garbage each day! So with this in mind, you may find yourself wondering, can tea bags go into the compost?

The vast majority of tea bags can be composted at home using traditional composting methods.  Some teabags contain non-biodegradable plastic, to seal the tea bags. This plastic may have to be manually removed from the compost on completion of the composting process.

Despite the fact some parts of the tea bag are not compostable, the vast majority of it is.  Some manufacturers say that up to 25% of their tea bags are made from non-biodegradable plastics.

In a recent interview, a spokesman from Unilever, one of the worlds largest tea bag manufacturers, said;

“Our PG tips pyramid bags are mostly made of paper with a small amount of plastic which is used to seal the tea bag. These tea bags are suitable for composting and can either be recycled in home compost bins or added to food waste collections.”

Is It Ok To Put Tea Bags Into The Compost?

Even knowing there is a small amount of plastic in each tea bag, it is still perfectly fine to add them to your regular compost pile. I have been composting tea bags for as long as I can remember.  Occasionally, I have to pull a small section that hasn’t broken down properly, but the majority of the bag just disappears.

How Long Does A Tea Bag Take To Compost?

How long very much depends on the brand of teabag.  On average it takes between 6 and 12 months for a teabag to completely break down, but there are a number of factors that can affect this timescale, including how hot the compost heap runs.  

A hot compost heap will naturally break down any waste added to it faster than a cold heap will.

Does The Plastic In Tea Bags Affect The Finished Compost?

According to researchers at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, there is little to no risk from the amount of plastic left after composting, although the researchers do concede more work is needed before we fully understand the long term impact of microplastics in the food chain.

Personally, I have not found any issues growing plants, both edible and ornamental, in compost which included composted tea bags. These days I don’t even worry too much about pulling out the non-composted pieces of the teabag. I usually just dig them into the soil and let them rot down naturally in the soil. 

I certainly never seem to dig them back up when I turn the beds back over a couple of years down the line.

Are Any Tea Bags Plastic-Free?

In recent times, consumers are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and the impact we are all having on our planet.  Manufacturers are listening to what their customers are saying and slowly but surely many of them are starting to phase out the plastic in the teabag.

A number of years ago PG Tips moved away from plastic in their teabags due to consumer pressure.  There are also a number of organic companies that produce plastic-free tea bags, although these do tend to be a little more expensive.

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Are There Alternatives To Using Tea Bags Altogether?

There are alternatives to using tea bags.  Using loose tea in a teapot, and then straining it as you pour it into your cup negates the need for a teabag altogether.  Once finished, the tea leaves can be added to the compost where they will break down very quickly.

There are also brands of tea that specifically make tea bags that are completely free of plastic, but these do tend to be smaller, more expensive brands.  More of a luxury brew than your everyday cuppa.

What Else Can You Do With A Tea Bag Other Than Compost It?

If you decide that composting your old tea bags is not the way forward for you, there are a surprising number of alternative uses for a used teabag.

  1. Used tea bags are said to be great for eliminating odors around the home.  You can place some of the used, dried leaves into kitty litter to reduce odors, or place a bowl of used tea bags into the refrigerator to eliminate any unpleasant smells in there. 
  2. Old-time gardeners used to collect their used tea bags in a bucket, then when they had enough, brewed a bucket of weak tea to water the plants.  The resulting brew is said to protect the plants from fungal infections.
  3. Some claim if you place your old, used tea bags around the base of your plants they will deter mice.  It is also said placing old tea bags in a pantry will deter mice from entering there too.
  4. Soaking the dishes in warm water with a few used tea bags added is said to break down the grease and remove stubborn, stuck food.
  5. Placing used, moist tea bags on dry, irritated skin can relieve some of the symptoms.

Disclaimer: Please try any of the above entirely at your own risk!

My Final Thoughts On ‘Can You Compost Tea Bags?’

I would say yes, you absolutely can compost tea bags.  I have been doing it for years, and in my opinion, they make a great addition to the compost pile.  Yes, occasionally you will have to remove a bit of the teabag which hasn’t fully broken down, but you can just add it back to the pile, or bury it in the ground whilst you are digging the homemade compost in.


Arya Patel

Arya Patel is HomesteadSavvy.com’s fruit and vegetable editor. Arya has been homesteading for well over a decade and over that time she has grown countless varieties of fruits and vegetables. She aims to become completely self-sufficient over the next 5 years.
Fruit & Vegetable Editor