I have been making garden compost for as long as I can remember. It’s occasionally a bit lumpy, but after spreading it over the surface of the soil in the autumn, by the time spring comes it has made itself at home and kicks into action for the growing season.
But something odd has been happening over the last couple of years. I have spread out the compost in the normal way, but by the time spring arrives, the surface of the soil seems to be covered with something like fairy wings. Closer inspection has shown that these are not fairy wings, but PG Tips tea bags. Well, more like the ghosts of PG Tips tea bags. It’s normal to find the odd teabag partially intact, but not on the scale of an epidemic! I wrote to Unilver to ask what was going on, and this is their reply:
I can inform you that like most of the tea bags in the UK, PG tips tea bags 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, this is needed to create a seal to keep the tea leaves inside the bag.
This now explains why I have so many tea bag ghosts spread over the garden.
The tea bags can be added to a compost bin and the majority of the bag will decompose quickly adding moisture and nitrogen. If people are worried about the small amount of material that is not fully compostable we would recommend removing the bag before putting the tea leaves on the compost. Tea bags CAN be composted/added to food waste collection and although there is a small amount of non-compostable material, this is not a problem.
Now hang on a minute, this all seems a bit murky to me. Either the tea bags are biodegradable or they’re not. If something is only partially biodegradable, then something else is going to be left hanging around afterwards, so what will happen to this? They say it isn’t a problem, but I disagree. Drip feeding plastic into the soil couldn’t possibly be a good thing.
You could say ‘what does it matter about a few old tea bags?’ and you might be right. Perhaps I’m just being petty…need to get a life… But wait a minute – multiply the tea bags in my garden by all the thousands of other tea drinking composters who have them floating over the surface of their gardens as well – and what then?