It’s not uncommon for people who enjoy a tea lifestyle to also have concerns about the environment, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a hobby so steeped in mindfulness would attract people who take these types of things into consideration.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, unfortunately. Different tea companies are going to use a variety of different types of bags, so some tea bags are biodegradable, but there are other products that aren’t.
- So, what can you do as a consumer?
- Which tea bags are biodegradable, and which ones aren’t? Are tea bags compostable?
- Here are a few options of teas that come in biodegradable bags:
- Does it really matter?
So, what can you do as a consumer?
This starts at the grocery store (Or online, if that’s where you order your tea from.)
In other words, you can definitely find tea bags that are biodegradable, and other options that aren’t.
One alternative is to simply make the switch from bagged teas to loose leaf teas, where you can steep your tea leaves with any number of re-usable devices, like a portable tea infuser bottle.
If you want the benefits of loose leaf tea, which is generally a higher quality than bagged teas, you can also buy empty tea bags. The ones that Adagio sells, for instance, are made from natural wood fibers, they won’t impact the taste of your tea, and they are biodegradable.
Which tea bags are biodegradable, and which ones aren’t? Are tea bags compostable?
Depending on which company’s tea you’re drinking, the bags could be entirely 100% biodegradable, and perfect for your compost… or they may not be, which isn’t as much of a definitive answer as you were looking for, but ultimately it really depends on the brand. The ones that aren’t fully, are likely around 70-80% biodegradable, and tea brands tend to still recommend adding them to your compost. The tea inside the bag is also perfect for compost and will degrade completely.
If you’re drinking your tea from K-Cups it’s time to seriously reconsider that decision for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the pods pile up in the landfill and while parts of them will biodegrade, the whole pod won’t, and you’ll have to open it up and tear it into pieces to separate them.
Here is what some popular brands of tea have to say after being asked about composting their tea bags:
PG Tips: ‘Like most of the teabags in the UK, our teabags are made with about 80% paper fibre, which is fully compostable along with the tea leaves contained in the bag. The remaining packaging includes a small amount of plastic which is not fully biodegradable.’
Clipper Teas: ‘Our teabags are composed of vegetable and wood fibres and are sealed with a low level of polypropylene. Our teabags are suitable for inclusion in compost heaps where the fibres will break down. Any remaining fibres will be small and can be dispersed in the soil.’
Twinings: “I can confirm that our Teabags are decomposable, however if you purchase our envelope teabags you will have to tear off the staple and string*. Also it has been made aware to us here at Twinings that our teabags compose better when they are split.”
Whittard: “We are pleased to inform you that the teabags are compostable.”
Bigelow Tea responded to somebody named Wendy who reached out to them for a comment (She shared their response in the comment section of the website we’ve linked below):
“Thank you for contacting us here at Bigelow Tea. You asked if the tea bags and string are compostable and what are the tea bags made of.
- The tea bag is 100% biodegradable, we are please to share the fact that:
- Bleach Free and Dioxin Free
- Wood used in our filter comes from managed forests that subscribe to the Certified Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
- Our Abaca Fiber suppliers adhere to Fiber Industry Develop Authority (FIDA)
- Both soft woods and the Abaca are 100% sustainable.
- The string is 100% cotton it is harvested from individually owned farms and cooperatives.
- Cotton is a natural, sustainable product.
- The paraffin used on our string is biodegradable and non-toxic.”
This website did a really in-depth job, and reached out to a handful of brands, so take a look at their work as well!
Now, it’s worth pointing out that compostable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100% biodegradable, as you’ll note that Clipper Teas for instance mentioned that the remaining fibres are small, and can be dispersed in the soil, and won’t decompose. The tea bags that will leave a little plastic behind are generally the ones that have that flat seal around the edge, they’re heat sealed and almost always contain polypropylene.
Here are a few options of teas that come in biodegradable bags:
The following Chai comes directly from a 5th generation family-owned tea farm in Assam, India. Farm to cup means there are no middlemen, you’re buying from the growers.
Numi has many great flavors to choose from, here’s a great deal on their full leaf green tea.
- FULL-BODIED FLAVOR: Within hours of being plucked, this whole leaf organic green...
- BRIGHT, FRESH GREEN TEA: Whether you're looking for jasmine tea, gunpowder green...
- BAGGED TEA: Numi's organic full-leaf quality teas come in convenient tea bags...
- NUMI'S ORGANIC TEAS and tisanes bring you the flavor and health benefits of...
Finally, here are some bags if you want to make your own.
- Width: 2.75'', Height: 3.15'', biodegradable & chlorine free, perfect media size...
- Natural wood pulp filter paper, unbleached, burlywood color, processed by UV...
- Filmy paper make the tea seep through easily and quickly to get more strong tea,...
- Sealed package by plastic bags internal, and wrap with a nice box outside, good...
Does it really matter?
It’s a personal thing. If you’re someone who aims for a 100% green lifestyle, then you may be concerned with the 20% or so of the tea bag that won’t degrade in your compost, but for most people, that’s such a tiny amount of material compared to the waste that many people produce on any given day, that if this is something you’re becoming concerned with – there are probabally other areas in your life that could make a much more profound impact.
None the less, there are some excellent options out there, so check out some of the teas we’ve featured on this page, or maybe even make your own bagged teas, so you can answer “yes” the next time a friend asks you are tea bags biodegradable?
main image credit: flickr/yratof
Last update on 2020-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API