Composting Tea Leaves and Teabags

If you drink tea and have a garden, composting used tea leaves is an easy way to promote sustainability, even if you do not compost any other material. Tea leaves are rich in nutrients and loose tea makes an outstanding mulch which can be applied directly to the soil in your garden. The tea can be collected in a container and placed directly on your garden daily or every few days. Composting tea leaves turns a waste product into a valuable resource, which has two main benefits:

  • Reducing waste
  • Enriching your soil for free and without using any synthetic fertilizers

Composting Tea Bags:

While loose-leaf tea can be applied directly to your garden, teabags require slightly more effort. Many teabags are not biodegradable. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of nylon teabags. Nylon is a synthetic material which will not break down if added to compost. Some teabags are made of paper but are not compostable because they contain metal staples or other non-biodegradable materials.

Even with fully biodegradable teabags, one must exercise caution. Many tea companies claim that their teabags are biodegradable and compostable, but say nothing about the amount of time required for decomposition. Some teabags, especially the higher-quality ones marketed as “tea sachets”, are made of silk, which is natural but decomposes slowly. Even paper takes longer to decompose than most kitchen waste. Whereas the leaves inside a teabag are suitable for direct application to a garden, depending on conditions, the bag itself may take a year or more to fully decompose–much longer than most fruit and vegetable compost.

Break Open Tea Bags:

Breaking open teabags is a good practice whether your teabag is biodegradable or not. While in the long-run, it is best to avoid purchasing tea packed in nylon bags and other non-biodegradable packaging, if you do drink such teas, you can compost the contents of each bag and dispose of the bag in your normal trash. If you are drinking tea packaged in bags that are biodegradable but decompose slowly, breaking open the bag can allow you to separate the leaves, suitable for direct application to your garden, from the bag which will likely take a longer time to decompose. A time-saving trick for breaking open tea bags is to let them sit overnight to dry out; when dry, the leaves will no longer cling to the inside of the bag.

Drink Loose Tea:

Lastly, if you are interested in sustainability, drink loose tea. Not only does it taste better and save money, but it also saves energy. The packaging process for making teabags is involved and uses energy and materials that are unnecessary. Not only will using loose tea make it much easier for you to compost your tea leaves, it will improve your tea-drinking experience and help you promote sustainability in other ways as well.