Can tea bags add value to compost? They sure can!
You can use compostable tea bags to enrich your garden soil and compost with vital nutrients and minerals that the soil may be missing.
Think of it as upcycling your garden while recycling your tea!
Why Use Tea in Compost?
Professional gardeners and homely green thumbs alike are always looking for ways to improve the nutrient content in their compost.
Green and black tea leaves are an excellent source of nitrogen and potassium for the garden.
The number of nutrients that each bag of tea provides for the garden will vary depending on the type of tea, how the manufacturer processes the tea, and where the tea originated from.
Aside from the nutrients, tea introduction into the garden provides buckets of other benefits.
It helps promote the earthworm population in the soil, increases oxygenation of the soil, and helps maintain moisture and soil structure.
Plus, using tea in your garden is one way to get bang for your buck for every cup of tea!
If you love tea and have it every morning, finding another purpose for the used up tea leaves can only further improve your love of tea.
Are Herbal Tea Bags Good for Compost Too?
Yes, as long as there isn’t any plastic in the tea bags!
Herbal teas provide a variety of nutrients to the garden and can help keep pests away.
For example, peppermint leaves deter beetles and other types of creepy crawlies that prey on gardens and rose tea provides excellent vitamin c for the soil.
What Kind of Tea Bag is Safe to Use in Composting?
Not all tea bags are safe to use in the garden. A vast majority of pre-bagged teas on the market contain polypropylene, a type of plastic.
When plastic is present in the tea bag, it will not break down in the garden.
Eventually, the tea bags will need removal from the garden, which can turn into a messy job.
You can usually identify when tea bags have some plastic in it because they are slippery to the touch and may have a pressed-sealed edge similar to an envelope.
The only kinds of tea bags safe to use in composting are ones without any plastic.
You can usually identify types of tea bags without plastic by checking the label for plastic or polypropylene.
If you’re uncertain, it’s better not to use the bag.
Materials that are compostable and used as tea bag materials include silk, muslin, and paper.
What About Organic Tea? Aren’t They All Safe?
Just because the contents of the tea are organically grown does not mean that the tea bags are made of 100% organic content.
Food labels must list what the ingredients are in the tea as required by law, but they do not have to list ingredients for what holds the tea.
Thus, organic chamomile tea could be held in a plastic-filled bag.
What Popular Tea Brands Have Compost-Safe Tea Bags?
Some of the more popular brands of tea to compost include the following:
- Celestial Seasonings: 100% compostable
- Red Diamond
What Popular Tea Brands Have Plastic In Their Tea Bags?
A few popular brands of tea that do contain plastic in their bags are:
- Yogi Tea
- Mighty Leaf
- Peet’s Coffee and Tea
What’s the Problem With Plastic Tea Bags?
If you’re not feeling like separating tea leaves from the bag every time you have a cup of hot tea, it’s perfectly acceptable to toss a tea bag or two into the compost…as long as you’re willing to dig them out again later.
The trouble with leaving plastic tea bags in the garden is that they don’t break down and remain a foreign object in the garden.
Because they do not break down, the bags can become a hazard for wildlife who may explore the garden and find the bag looking like a treat.
Additionally, polypropylene and other plastics can be toxic when ingested.
Over time, these chemicals can build up in the soil – that’s not exactly something you want to grow your carrots in!
In the long run, plastic-based tea bags aren’t great for the earth and aren’t recyclable or upcycled like their more naturally-based counterparts.
Things to Keep in Mind
While introducing compost-safe tea bags into the garden is a great way to diversify the nutrients of the soil, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start doing it.
Tea has tannic properties that make the soil more acidic.
If you add excessive tea grounds to soil that is already acidic, the soil can become too acidic for plant growth.
A little tea goes a long way.
There are a couple of ways to properly apply tea and tea bags to the soil. The right application depends on the desired use.
To improve plant growth, you can put tea grounds directly on top of the soil.
You can remove some of the tea leaves from the bag and spread it like mulch.
If there is already an active growth of plants, it’s important not to throw off the soil pH too much.
Instead of directly applying grounds to the top of the soil, mix the tea bags and grounds into the compost bin for better content distribution.
Staples and Strings
Even if you know for sure that the tea bags are made of compost-safe materials, be sure to remove any staples, labels, or strings attached to the bag.
Staples are not easily degradable and frequently coated in plastic to prevent rusting.
Labels may have printed ink on them that are not safe for soil application.
A string might be made of natural fibers that compost well, but it’s not easy to figure out if a particular brand’s string is made of such materials.
There are many benefits to adding tea leaves to your compost.
The nutrient-dense content of teas the ease of using compostable tea bags makes adding value to your garden’s compost a breeze!