Composting your tea bags seems like a no-brainer, right? It’s a paper wrapper, a fabric string, and a bunch of damp leaves – seems perfect for the compost bin. The trouble with tea bags is that there’s plastic worked into that paper. So, should you still toss your tea bags in the compost bin?
Why is there plastic in my tea bag?
Using plastic mesh in tea bags is an industry-wide practice, according to a 2010 survey that Which? Gardening conducted among major tea manufacturers. Which? investigated the tea bag issue after several readers wrote in saying that the tea bags in their compost bins weren’t breaking down completely.
The plastic mesh is polypropylene, and like other plastics it takes hundreds of years to break down. The purpose of the polypropylene mesh is to heat-seal the tea bags during manufacturing.
For paper bags that do leave a plastic mesh in the bin, Which? recommends raking those out of the compost and discarding them when you’re getting ready to use it.
Is it safe?
As with any plastic that touches food or beverages, there’s also the question of that material leaching chemicals. The rule of thumb with plastic is that heating it up makes it more likely to leach, which seems a little bit worrisome, since tea bags are meant to sit in boiling water for several minutes. In 2008, researchers found that some polypropylene leaches BPA.
Related Reading: 7 Ways to Avoid Toxic BPA
If you’re using your compost on a food garden, you’ll want to weigh the risk of leaching BPA into your compost versus the impact of sending your tea bags to the landfill.
On the next page, check out some tips about how to brew plastic free tea!