You can compost tea bags! The best part is that any type of tea will add vital compounds to your compost that help build it into a perfect soil amendment to increase the health and beauty of your garden.
I put all the information you need in this guide to clear up any confusion around composting tea bags. By the end, you’ll know which tea bags you should compost, along with steps on how to do so successfully.
Are Tea Bags Compostable?
Tea leaves are an ideal addition to compost, adding moisture and nitrogen to increase decomposition and balance out the carbon (brown) ingredients.
Many, but not all, tea bags are compostable, so you need to look closely at the type of tea bag you use.
- Is the outer bag that holds the tea leaves made from plastic, paper, or cloth?
- Are there staples or glue that hold the tea bag together?
If the outer bag is plastic or polypropylene, which 20 to 30 percent of tea bags are, it will not decompose for years and years.
Removing any metal staples or clips that may attach parts of the teabag is essential. Not only will metal take a long time to rust out and break down, but you may injure yourself on the tiny wires when you go to spread the completed compost in your garden or containers.
The good news is that there are fully biodegradable tea bag brands made of paper, muslin, or silk that are easily compostable.
If you love your current tea bags but find they are plastic material, you can still partially compost the bag, which I detail in the steps below. You can also purchase loose-leaf tea and use convenient yet environmentally-friendly, self-fill bags.
Pros And Cons Of Composting Tea Bags
Are you wondering whether it’s worth it to compost your teabags? Take a look at the pros and cons before making your final decision.
- Easy way to add nitrogen source to the bin
- Reduces daily kitchen waste heading to landfills
- Adds moisture to the composter
- Improves soil texture and drainage
- Encourages beneficial bacterial growth, which speeds up decomposition
- Works equally well in traditional bins, vermicomposters, and for Bokashi composting methods
- Must remove staples from certain brands of otherwise biodegradable tea bags
- Nylon or plastic tea bags won’t decompose and yet release plastic particles into your drink as well as your garden soil
- May need to cut non-degradable bags open to release the tea leaves, which is messy
- Tannic acid found in the tea may slightly increase acidity within the compost
How To Compost Tea Bags
Follow these steps to compost your teabags quickly:
1. Cool And Prep The Bags
If your bags are not fully decomposable, take the time to remove any staples or outer bag material immediately and throw it in the trash before adding the tea to your composter.
I use a kitchen counter compost bin to toss my finished tea bags and other small food scraps for several days, so I need fewer trips to the compost bin.
2. Add The Bags To Your Compost Pile Or Bin
Make sure you balance out the tea bags with the appropriate amount of carbon-based material, like dried leaves or shreds of cardboard.
3. Turn And Tend On A Regular Schedule
To speed up the decomposition of your entire compost pile, make sure you turn the ingredients every couple of days.
Turning the compost, either by spinning the drum or using a pitchfork, will aerate the material and balance out the moisture levels, encouraging the beneficial microbes to keep eating.
FUN FACT: Any type of tea, whether green, black, or Rooibos, is perfect for encouraging worms to visit your outdoor compost pile. Worms in a vermicomposting system devour tea bags and leaves quickly, and it is a pleasant treat that keeps them happy.
Step 4. Alternative Direct-Composting
If you don’t have a composting system but still like the idea of recycling your tea bags, consider direct composting.
You can bury several tea bags around plants in your garden and let nature handle the breakdown over time. Some plants, mainly azaleas, blueberries, and rhododendrons, love the additional acidity tea brings to the soil.
For indoor plants, I suggest that you remove the tea bag before mixing the contents into the soil. Do not overwhelm and disrupt the soil balance by adding more than one or two teabags every few months.
I love having this option to boost the soil of my houseplants, especially during the winter season, when it’s too difficult to dig into the frozen ground and my regular composting routine is on a hiatus.