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By Jensen

Oxfordshire, United Kingdom Gb

Tea bags in compost - do you know what they are made of?
I am not so much as asking Members this question, as inviting discussion on it, because I have looked into it myself. Several years ago I met someone who told me that tea bags have plastic in them. I had already stopped putting them in compost anyway, because I noticed that they do not decompose fully, and I ended up with otherwise nice compost with lots of stuff in it looking like cobweb. I do not turn my compost over much, but I do not know how much that has to do with it. For several years now I have been letting the tea bags dry, emptying out the leaves, and consigning the bags to the bin for landfill/incinerator.
Wikipedia says 'Heat-sealed tea bag paper usually has a heat-sealable thermoplastic such as PVC or polypropylene as a component fiber on the inner tea bag surface'. Regarding pyramid-shaped tea bags, it says 'The tetrahedral shape allows more room for the leaf to steep. Environmentalists prefer silk to nylon because of health and biodegradability issues'.
A website called says 'While some brands use entirely natural fibers in the tea bags, many of the main brands (especially those that have “heat-sealed” edges) use synthetic fibres – and they don’t rot down. You’re left with lots of little white sacks in your compost, or the natural fibres of the bag break down and leave tiny synthetic fibres mixed into your compost instead'. You can read more by entering 'tea bags' into Search on the website, and then clicking on 'Can I compost tea and tea bags?'.
The website called has an article called 'Composting Tea bags', with replies from various tea companies to a question asking if their tea bags are compostable. There are responses from readers at the end; you can find it by entering 'tea bags' in Search.
I am now wondering what do do with a load of tea bag-strewn compost from several years ago, that I was intending to spread over some earth. The response from Leon to the article echoes my feelings: 'I think all the above comments are spot-on but plastic is a man-made substance and however small does not belong in the soil. The problem is that after generations of adding little bits of unnatural product to the environment this will end up disturbing the natural balance. Maybe not in our lifetime but at some point it will'.



We have always put ours in the compost and they all break down. No problem.

10 Aug, 2015


Ours don't - have stopped trying.

10 Aug, 2015


It may depend on the brand--some that I have used have proven so tough, that I figure that they are made of spun-bonded polyester.

10 Aug, 2015


On their site PG encourages us to recycle or compost your tea bags, they also say they have recently changed the paper but doesn't say what's changed.
They also suggest layering them on top of crocks in a pot before adding soil (some people say this helps conserve moisture).
We stopped putting them into the compost bin a while ago as they weren't breaking down - maybe we should try again.
We probably ingest some of those pp's when drinking t-bag tea let alone from clothing etc so I wouldn't worry too much.

11 Aug, 2015


Bulba and I drink organic tea so the bags are made of paper and have no plastic in them... I believe that the likes of Tetley's do have plastics in them so won't break down properly.

11 Aug, 2015


We buy our Tea bags from Miles in Minehead in Somerset. Their bags seem to break down and leave (pun intended) no trace.

11 Aug, 2015


My tea bag is made from stainless steel and is about 25 years old - it's shaped like an egg and makes perfect tea (for one) in a china cup or in a china tea pot (for more than one). I also use real tea leaves rather than the factory floor sweepings that go into ready-made teabags.

11 Aug, 2015


The leaves used in Tea bags are the finest broken fannings......according to the manufacturers.

11 Aug, 2015


we buy loose tea now and have done for a while.

11 Aug, 2015


In our house we have his/hers, mine is PG Tips bags, he has Yorkshire leaves very strong, bags and tea leaves all go into my compost bins, although I used to lay the bags onto the ground hidden away under my roses, left like that the bags never broke down so started putting them straight into the compost, no problems since then, I do turn the compost regularly so perhaps that helps tear the bags, also have four bins so sometimes is left for well over a year or even two before its needed which also helps break everything down...I have never checked what the bags were sealed with....

11 Aug, 2015


I sent an email to PG & here is the response, it doesn't tell us anything new.

Thank you for your recent comments to PG tips.

In response to your enquiry, I am able to inform you that you can compost our tea bags. For more information about composting and recycling our tea bags, please see the following link:

12 Aug, 2015


I wouldn't put in the compost Snoop but could be scattered round shrubs like roses.

13 Aug, 2015


I am interested to read your reply from PG Tips, Green Finger, and I will look at the link. I would be surprised if their teabags are better than those of the other main brands.
It is interesting to hear about your organic tea Moon Grower.
I see what you mean about buying loose tea, Urbanite, and I may do this in future. It would avoid sending empty teabags off to landfill or an incinerator. Also, I think that it is well known that tea tastes best when you brew tea leaves in a china teapot.
In spite of the replies from members who do compost teabags, I still feel the same way about it. The teabags may break down, but the synthetic fibres are still there in the compost even though you cannot see them. I have got used to letting my teabags dry, tearing them open along the seams, and shaking the leaves into my green dalek compost bins. It is good to see them spread out over the mound. Furthermore, they contribute well to the brown/carbon waste. I find that sticks and leaves to not break down easily in the dalek compost bins (I admit I do not turn over the compost much), and so I end up with more green/nitrogen - veg and fruit peel - in them than brown. I like the fact that tea leaves are pre-shredded, thus making them great for daleks.

18 Aug, 2015


Jensen, I've had a further response from PG & they are as you suspected:
Hello from PG tips

Dear Mari-Elaine,

Thank you for your recent email to PG tips.

I apologise that our last response did not contain all the required information.

PG tips tea bags not 100% organic as they are made with around 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, as this is needed to create the seals to keep the tea leaves inside the bag.

The change that we made to the paper this year was not to the composition of fibres but to the holes which allow the tea to brew. We made the holes smaller and more numerous for even more efficient brewing.

I do hope you find this information useful but should you require more information, please feel free to contact us by letter or email. Alternatively, you can contact our Consumer Engagement Centre on our free phone number 0800 454 611 from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. One of our advisors will be more than happy to assist you.

You are also welcome to look at our website,, or our Facebook page for more information and news on our PG tips products.

We hope that you carry on enjoying PG tips and thank you, Mari-Elaine, for your continued interest.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Taylor
Consumer Engagement Advisor

19 Aug, 2015


Snoop you are my kind of composter - theory is one thing, practice another when time is short and you are tired...

19 Aug, 2015


Jensen you could put the tea bags in the brown garden etc. bin. The way that i turned into compost will mean any small particles of plastic will not be a problem. Our biggest problem with plastic is in the sea where it is killing turtles and mammals! As a race humanity pollutes far more than any other!

19 Aug, 2015


I just found this information in an article called How to Compost Tea Leaves, on a website called

Cut open used tea bags and place the brewed leaves in your compost bucket. You can place this empty bag in the compost heap if it is made of paper, silk or muslin. Some tea bags may not be fully compostable --- 20 to 30 percent of the content can be polypropylene, according to research by "Which? Gardening" reported in London's "The Telegraph." If the tea bag doesn't decompose, remove it later from your finished compost. (See References 2)


Nylon tea bags, which feel slick to the touch and have a narrow heat-sealed edge, will not decompose and are not edible by compost worms, so do not add them to your compost heap or vermicompost bin. (See References 3)

8 Dec, 2016

How do I say thanks?

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