The next time you have your daily cup of tea, you may want to think twice about throwing that tea bag in the trash. Instead of contributing extra waste to landfills you can help the environment and your garden by placing used tea bags in the compost. But before you get started there are a few things you’ll need to know first.
Can I Compost Tea Bags? Maybe.
Not all tea bags can be composted. This is surprising to many people. Even more shocking is the reason why. Most tea bags contain plastic.
While the outer part of the tea bag may be paper (a mix of vegetable fiber and wool) which can break down, many have an inner surface that is made from plastics such as PVC or polypropylene.
Tea bags which have been pressed shut, even if they are made from paper, will typically use heated polypropylene to seal the bags. These often contain up to thirty percent plastic.
Tea bags which are advertised as silk or silken are actually made of plastic which is either plant-based or fossil-fuel based. You can compost tea bags which are made from paper and sealed with corn starch. Or paper bags that are folded, stitched, or stapled closed (just be sure to remove the staple).
Not Sure, No Problem!
If you’re not sure after reading the packaging, what your tea bags are made of, you can simply thrown them in and see what happens. If they turn out to be plastic they won’t hurt your compost they just won’t biodegrade.
If they don’t break down after a while simply cut them open, empty the tea into the compost, and throw the bags away. You’ll then know they are at least some part plastic. A quick test many people use is to touch the bag itself. If the tea bag has a slippery texture it is most likely made from plastic.
Other Environmentally-Friendly Ways To Go
Other than cutting plastic tea bags open and emptying them into your compost there are a few other ways to go too. You may want to switch to loose leaf tea instead and skip the bags altogether since tea leaves are of course one hundred percent natural.
Another option for those who love their tea bags but want something more environmentally-friendly is to purchase your own biodegradable paper tea bags and then add loose tea to them.
Benefits Of Tea Bags In The Compost
Once you have the right type of tea bags you can enjoy the many benefits of adding them to your compost. As they start to decompose they add nutrients such as nitrogen which add to the quality of the compost. This can help to boost the activity of worms and other helpful microorganisms which will further break down your compost in general.
And because tea bags are absorbent, they stay wet for long periods of time which helps to keep your compost moist. Both the tea and bags add organic matter to compost that can help to increase drainage and oxygen.
And when added to plants it can therefore help to prevent root rot. Similar to coffee grounds, tea is acidic and it can help to raise the acidity a bit but at the same time not so much that acid-sensitive plants will be negatively affected.
Many people actually skip the composting step and go straight to using used tea bags in the garden directly. When buried around the roots of plants the tannic acid they contain can help to deter pests such as root maggots.
Using tea as fertilizer is also popular. By cutting the bags open and sprinkling the contents on top of soil can also help to keep pests away and at the same time add nutrients to your soil. For acid-loving plants adding tea bags or their contents can help to lower the pH level of the soil making it more acidic.
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