Tea bags will decompose in the soil or composter. The acid in the tea can speed up the decomposition process, allowing you to use the compost sooner.
(raw banana leaf fiber; John Washington, CC BY-SA, via Wikimedia Commons)
As companies evolve in order to compete for a larger market share, there is some disagreement about which brands contain plastic or non-domestic biodegradable materials. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation investigated several popular international tea companies. Among the most heavily contaminated at the time of the report were Lipton, Tetley, Twinning, Uncle Lee’s Legends of China, King Cole, and Signal. Is your favorite on the list? One of mine is. Most of these brands were found to contain higher levels of either plastic, insecticides, or other contaminants.
However, a number of tea brands have been certified plastic-free. Among them are Twinings, Numi Organic, Pukka, Sainsbury's, The Republic of Tea, Waitrose, Lipton's Quality Black, and my favorite, FGO Organic Earl Grey Black.
Many pyramidal bags are made from either non-biodegradable nylon or a GMO plant-based plastic, such as cornstarch, that will only break down in industrial food waste collection systems.
Tea sachets are filled with both whole and broken tea leaves. Broken leaves lose most of their essential oils, resulting in less flavor. The pyramid shape allows more room for the tea to expand and produces a more flavorful brew.
They add nutrients to soil
Tea repels pests and curious cats
Grow a tea bag garden
They're safe for vermicomposting
Tea bags that are free of plastic can be buried directly in the garden or tossed into a composter. The contents will give the worm poo a big nutrient boost, making it much richer. If the used bags are not plastic-free, the spent tea leaves inside them can still be recycled. Empty the contents directly into your veggie garden or compost pile, and discard the bag in the trash.
(photography taken by Christophe.Finot, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
They help retain soil moisture and impede weeds
Use them out of the garden too
Eliminate greasy, stuck-on food by soaking baking sheets, pans, and dishes overnight in a sink filled with hot water and used tea bags. You only need a few tea bags and a cup or two of hot water for a single item. A heavy load of dirty dishes requires approximately a dozen bags. Fill the sink with hot water, add the tea bags, and soak overnight, allowing the tannins to break down the grease.
Tea bags are very effective for removing sticky fingerprints on glass. For sparkling windows and mirrors, rub a damp tea bag over the surface and dry with a paper towel.
Cheers to tea! Or as the Japanese say, Ocha ni kanpai!