Can you put tea bags in compost?

tea bags ok for composting?

QUESTION: Can you put tea bags in compost? We drink a lot of tea, and it seems like this would be a good source of organic material for the composter. Do the bags make it bad?

ANSWER: For a long time, tea bags have been considered compostable, but it has come to light that some companies use a sealing plastic called polypropylene, which is not compostable, in their bags. If the brand of tea you use does not use plastics in their packaging, feel free to compost them.

However, if your tea brand does use polypropylene or another plastic in its packaging, you should refrain from including them in compost. (Even if your tea bags include plastic, you can still open them and empty the spent tea leaves into your compost bin, then dispose of the tea bag itself separately.) You should also be aware that the metal staples or metallic envelopes some brands use are not compostable and should be discarded in the trash. 

Check the lists below for the brand of tea you drink to find out whether its packaging is compostable. If your brand of tea is not included, you may wish to contact the company to ask them about whether their packaging is safe to include in compost. In the meantime, to stay on the safe side, it’s probably best to stick with composting the tea leaves themselves and throwing out the bags and other packaging in the trash if information isn’t available about the brand of tea you use.

If you make tea with a Keurig k-cup machine, you can open up the cup and dump the contents into your composter before you throw out the cup.

The tea brands listed below have bags that are free from plastic and are safe to add to your compost pile.

  • Abel & Cole
  • Akbar: Tea bag is compostable; do not compost staple or paper envelope, which has a metalized plastic layer
  • Bigelow Tea Company: Bags are compostable, but sleeves contain plastic and should not be composted
  • Brew Tea Co.
  • Celestial Seasonings
  • Clipper
  • Co-op 99
  • Eteaket
  • Hampstead
  • Luzianne: Do not use staples or silver foil in composting
  • Lyons Tea (Unilever)
  • Numi Tea: Bags are compostable, but sleeves contain plastic and should not be composted
  • PG Tips (Unilever): Pure Leaf teas
  • Pukka Herbs
  • Red Diamond: Bags are compostable, but sleeves contain plastic and should not be composted
  • Republic of Tea
  • Salada
  • Stash Tea
  • T2
  • Teapigs
  • Teatulia
  • Teekampagne
  • Traditional Medicinals: Bags are compostable, but sleeves contain plastic and should not be composted
  • Twinings (Associated British Foods): Except for heat-sealed or string and tag teas
  • Waitrose Duchy 
  • We Are Tea

The following brands do use plastic or another non-biodegradable material in their products, so they should not be included in composting:

  • Aldi
  • Argo Tea
  • Betty’s Tea
  • Bushells (Unilever Australia)
  • Harney & Sons
  • Lidl
  • Lipton
  • Mighty Leaf: Can be used for commercial composting, but not home composting
  • Peet’s Coffee & Tea (W.R. Hambrecht Co. Inc.): Can be used for commercial composting, but not home composting)
  • PG Tips: Except for Pure Leaf teas
  • Taylors of Harrogate
  • Tazo
  • Teavana
  • Tetley
  • Twinings (Associated British Foods): Heat-sealed or string and tag teas
  • Typhoo
  • Yogi Tea (East West Tea Company LLC)
  • Yorkshire Tea

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