A composting bin

Can I put paper tea bags in my compost bin?


It's complicated, whether you can put paper tea bags into your composting bin, so read on!

Key info
Brown material📂
6 months - 2 years

Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

Can You Compost Tea Bags? The Truth About Tea Bag Materials and Compostability

Tea is an excellent addition to any compost pile. The organic material in tea leaves breaks down easily, providing valuable nutrients for plants and soil life. However, tea "bags" themselves can sometimes cause problems, depending on what materials they are made from. So can you compost tea bags?

A Brief Overview

The short answer is: it depends. Tea bag composition varies widely between brands. While the tea leaves themselves are compost-friendly, some tea bags include plastics and other materials that do not break down well or could introduce microplastics into your compost.

In this comprehensive guide, we outline the different materials used to make tea bags, which ones are compostable, and tips for sustainably composting your favorite cuppa.

What Are Tea Bags Made Of?

Tea bag materials fall into three main categories:


  • 100% paper tea bags are safe to compost.
  • Paper breaks down at the same rate as tea leaves.
  • Choose unbleached paper tea bags when possible.

PLA Plastic

  • PLA stands for polylactic acid plastic made from corn starch.
  • PLA tea bags needs high heat composting to break down fully.
  • Put PLA tea bags in curbside municipal compost only.

Polypropylene Plastic

  • Polypropylene plastic tea bags do not decompose.
  • Avoid putting any plastic tea bags in home compost.
  • Empty tea leaves into compost, discard plastic casing.

Tea bags are often made with a blend of paper and up to 5% plastic fibers to reinforce the paper when wet. The plastic content makes many tea bags challenging to compost at home.

Identifying Compostable Tea Bags

With so many tea brands available, how can you easily identify which tea bags are compost friendly? Here are some tips:

  • Read packaging - Look for home compostability certifications or statements from the manufacturer about the tea bag materials used. Terms like "green and brown" , “biodegradable”, “compostable, "plant-based" and “paper” are good signs.

  • Feel the texture - 100% paper tea bags feel fibrous, while plastic bags have a smooth, slightly waxy texture.

  • Contact companies - If in doubt, reach out to tea brands directly to ask about tea bag construction. Most brands have sustainability initiatives and will happily share specifics.

  • When in doubt, leave them out - Erring on the side of caution is best to keep plastic microparticle contamination out of garden spaces and prevent tea bags accumulating undegraded in compost.

Below we summarize the compostability of some top selling US tea brands’ bags.

Compostable Tea Bag Brands

  • Bigelow
  • Celestial Seasonings
  • Lipton
  • Mighty Leaf (commercial only)
  • Numi (commercial only)
  • Pukka
  • Republic of Tea
  • Stash
  • Yogi

Not Home Compostable

  • Tetley
  • Tazo
  • Twinning
  • Yorkshire

Again, when uncertain, check with manufacturers, as tea bag materials can change. Some offer both plastic and paper tea bags, so check types.

Tips for Composting Tea Bags

Composting tea bags takes a little forethought but allows this abundant resource to enrich gardens instead of trash. Here are our top tips:

  • Snip them open - Slit open tea bags to help contents decompose. Whole bags decompose very slowly.

  • Remove staples and strings - These extras don’t readily break down.

  • Use curbside or municipal collection - If bags contain any plastic or bio-plastic, use city green bin programs for proper high heat composting. Don't put them in backyard composters.

  • Contact companies for clarity - Ask manufacturers about tea bag construction if it is unclear from packaging.

  • Prioritize plastic-free - Seek out and request paper-only tea bags from retailers and brands.

  • Compost the leaves -When doubtful about bag composition, empty leaves into compost, discarding the bag casing.


We enjoy drinking tea, and tea leaves themselves enrich compost. But tea bag composition varies widely and not all types belong in home compost piles. With some sleuthing into bag materials and a snip across each spent bag, we can keep even more waste out of landfills. Compost on!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you compost tea leaves?

Yes! The leaves from tea bags are an excellent nitrogen addition to compost. Prioritize paper tea bags or empty leaves from non-paper bags.

Are staples on tea bags OK in compost?

Small staples pose little problem in compost. Over time, they will rust away. Staples are optional, though, so paper-only tea bags are ideal.

How long does it take tea bags to break down?

Whole tea bags break down slowly. Snipping them open speeds decomposition considerably. Then the tea leaves and paper will compost at the rate of other greens and browns in the pile, while plastics remain intact indefinitely.

Can tea bags go in worm composting bins?

Yes, as long as they are made of safe materials. Worms can process paper tea bags and contents efficiently. Avoid plastic tea bags in vermicompost.

We hope this guide helps you make informed choices about sustainably repurposing your favorite comforting cup of tea. Compost on!

Search again?