The war on plastic waste is due to bring a benefit for composters according to todays Observer (26/1/18) as the COOP is in the final stages of developing a plastic free biodegradable teabag. The Coop sells 367 million teabags a year hopes to have the new bags in their shops later this year.
Teabags are used to be listed as compostable items but in recent years more and more composters have complained that the bags do not actually decompose when composted. This is because most bags now including a non-biodegradable plastic (polypropylene) so that they can be more easily heat-sealed during manufacture. The bags may be described as ‘70% or 80% compostable which includes the tea leaves and paper element of the bag but not the plastic. Teabags accounts for about 150 tonnes of polypropylene going to landfill, AD or composting a year in the UK alone.
The advice when home composting has been to use loose leaf tea or if using teabags:
- tear open the bags before putting them in the bin
- or sieve or pick them out after composting
- or best of the bunch buy compostable bags
Compostable teabags made of a corn starch (SOILON) are sold by the Brew Tea Company and Teapigs. These will hot compost in about 6-8 weeks around 12 months in a cold composting system.
Pukka Tea teabags are sewn shut by machine with cotton thread, not heat sealed, and do not contain plastic. The teabag paper is made of a blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres.
Fruit, herbal and green tea ranges may already use a compostable tea bag material which can be put straight in the compost bin.