If you didn’t already know, I am English, and am true to the stereotype… I LOVE a good old cup of tea! But did you know that this simple habit can actually have a negative impact on the environment, and despite what people think – it’s not always easy to compost tea bags. Setting aside the ethical issues relating to the farming of tea, a tea bag it’s self can actually contain plastic. Nothing like a cup of microplastics with my breakfast!
Americans, while not as bigger tea drinkers as us Brits – still drink a remarkable half a pound of tea each, every single year – equating to around 300 cups of tea. Personally, I love to drink loose tea but if that’s not for you, make sure to read the rest of this post where I share the answers to common questions about composting tea bags and the best plastic free tea brands.
FYI, this is a guest post written by Little By Lottie, a zero waste advocate and blogger. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.
Can You Compost Tea Bags?
Can you put a tea bag in compost?
Many tea brands use plastic and other non-compostable materials within the porous lining of the tea bag. So no, you cannot put ALL tea bags in the compost. Only specific brands, and sometimes only specific teas they carry, will actually be compostable.
It’s important to know the difference between biodegradable and compostable before you go adding something to your compost. Essentially, most things are biodegradable (but not compostable).
This means, that while most tea bags will break down, the materials that they break down into can contain microplastics, and won’t be nutritional. They’ll even sometimes be harmful to the environment. Fortunately, more and more brands are becoming aware of the issue, and are releasing plastic free tea bag ranges.
Are all tea bags biodegradable?
Yes, but biodegradable doesn’t necessarily mean anything good. It simply means the tea bags will break down – but that can only make things worse if it’s made from plastic. Because then, it becomes microplastics.
Tea bags are made of various things some are made of natural fibres, such as paper, which can be easily broken down but more often than not, the bag will contain plastic of some type.
The most common plastic in tea bags is known as polypropylene, which can make up around 30% of your average tea bag. Other plastics can be found in silk style tea bags and a plastic glue may be used to seal the bags too.
While these tea bags are biodegradable in almost every case, they will not always be home compostable. (If you aren’t sure of the difference check out this post.)
It is actually pretty rare that tea bags will be totally plastic free and compostable. Even if your tea bags are compostable, it’s important to make sure they are home compostable and not just industrially compostable.
Can you compost tea bags with strings?
It is common that tea bags which have been sealed with a string are compostable. This is because they wont be sealed with a plastic glue. However, it is best to make sure from brand to brand. In some cases, these are compostable tea bags but you may need to remove a plastic based string (and staple). In other cases, the string is made of organic cotton which is totally safe to compost at home.
Can you compost Lipton tea bags?
Yes you can – if it is their traditional black tea bags. They are made of hemp and cellulose fibres – which means they are home compostable. Make sure you don’t put these into your recycling bin, though, as they aren’t recyclable.
However, the decaf, chai and herbal ranges have an additional thermoplastic fibre component so make sure you don’t put these in your compost bin. And any of their triangular shaped tea bags are made from plastic so avoid those.
Can you put loose tea in compost bin?
Yes, absolutely! I personally love loose tea, and readily add it to my compost bin. Tea is made up of a mixture of leaves, herbs and sometimes fruit, which will add tons of green organic goodness to your compost heap. This nitrogen based part of the compost process is important to ensure a balanced and healthy compost. The act of moistening the tea in the brewing process, also enables easier breakdown of the nutrients too.
What brands of tea bags are compostable?
I have already said, not all tea brands are compostable and sometimes it’s hard to tell. Here are some of my favorite tea brands, which are totally plastic free and safe to put into your home compost pile.
1. Yogi Tea
- Compostable, recyclable, staple free tea bags
- USDA Certified Organic tea blends
- Non-GMO Project Verified
- Carboard packaging printed vegetable-based inks and are made from 60% recycled materials
- Tea cartons are made from 100% recycled paperboard
- Certified B Corp
- *Just remove staples before composting
For over 40 years Yogi Teas have been creating unique tea blends rooted in 3,000 years of Indian philosophy. The brand is passionate about providing organic produce, while encouraging mindfulness – with a yoga exercise on each packet. They truly are an authentic brand, placing ethics, authenticity and tradition at the forefront. Not only are they dedicated to the ethics of their workers, there is a huge focus on sustainability. All of their tea bags are completely plastic free and made of hemp and wood fibers. This means that their tea bags are 100% home compostable.
Note from Ariana: This is my FAVORITE tea company on this list and I often buy their Sweet Tangerine and Green Tea Passionfruit Matcha. They’re my go-tos for waking up in the morning when I need a boost!
2. Pukka Herbs
- USDA Certified Organic + FairLife Certified
- Teabags are 100% compostable and even use organic cotton string
- Tea boxes are made from FSC certified card, and printed using vegetable-based inks
- 1% For The Planet member
- Plants a tree with every purchase
Pukka Herbs was created with the purpose of benefiting the health of people, plants and the planet. They are totally transparent with a yearly impact report, carbon emission monitoring and sustainable packaging. All of their tea bags are home compostable and plastic free, even down to the organic cotton string. All of the packaging is made of recyclable materials and vegetable inks. They have clear sustainability goals, and are keen to not just settle with second best. If you want to see their goals, check out their plans laid out here.
Bigelow is a family tea brand who have been ethically brewing tea for almost 80 years. They have a huge amount of moral responsibility which governs their practices. Also, they are B Corp certified. All of their tea is responsibly sourced. On top of that, all of their packaging is totally recyclable and all components of the tea bags can be home composted. Energy and waste on their premises is also responsibly managed, with solar panels installed and 90% of their waste diverted from landfill.
- Only available in USA
- Organic Tea Selection
- 100% non-GMO
- Member of Ethical Tea Partnership
- B Corp Certified
Choice Organic Teas are focused on allowing their customer to break the vicious circle of simply working to live. They are all about wellbeing of self, and the planet – with a focus, of course, on taking a break for a cuppa! Their B Corp certified, staple free tea bags are made to be completely home compostable. Unfortunately, however, at this time their tea bag wrappers are not recyclable or compostable. They are actively looking for more sustainable packaging options, so watch this space.
- 100% compostable tea bag and packaging
- Part of the Climate Collaborative
- Carbon Neutral
- NUMI Foundation to educate, feed and provide support
- Fair Trade and Beyond
Numi Organic Tea is a company where every single one of your purchases will truly make a difference to the world. Not only are their sustainability credentials fantastic, they have their own foundation to help people all over the world. Your purchases have helped to develop the NUMI Curriculum which brings Gardening, Art, and Social Studies to children. Also, have helped provide basic human rights including COVID-19 food aid and clean water to those most in need. On top of all of this great work, they actively offset their carbon footprint, support biodiversity and conserve over 3,000 trees annually. All of their packaging is compostable, including their compostable tea bag wrapper.
Did this help answers your questions regarding how to compost tea bags? Let me know in the comments!
For more tips about zero waste tea, check out this blog post all about how to avoid plastic tea bags.
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Guest post: Hi, my name is Lottie and I have my own zero waste blog too (it’s littlebylottie.co.uk if you want to check it out or @littlebylottie on Instagram). I live across the pond in England and am super passionate about sharing easy changes you can make in your life to have a huge impact on the planet. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chat with Ariana on a few occasions.