How compos-tea-ble are your bags?

Recently in the tea and coffee industry, we’re seeing words like “plastic free”, “biodegradable” and “compostable” being used more and more.

But what does this really mean and can you tell the difference?

100% Biodegradable

Biodegradable means something that can be broken down by bacteria or living organisms to nothing, however there’s no time frame to define this. For example, a biodegradable spoon could take 50 years to biodegrade and still be classed as “biodegradable”.

Plastic Free

Often ‘Plastic free’ teabags are made using PLA (polylactic acid) which is in fact a bio-plastic (which is why we don’t use the term) but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! We do think it’s important though that people know how to dispose of them.

Most often they are described as….


Which, in turn, could mean:

Industrially Compostable. These teabags need to go to a specialist‘industrial composting’ facility, where high temperatures and special bacteria are added to break the product down in around 6-12 weeks. In landfill, industrially compostable items may actually take between 100-1000 years to break down though! Currently not all councils send their waste to industrial compost sites, so you may need to check!


Home Compostable. These teabags will break down in home compost. Here in the UK, this might take a little longer (as it’s colder) but home compostable products will break down in a relatively short amount of time without specialist conditions. Currently normal teabags (with plastic) can be composted at home but WRAP guidelines you’ll need to pick out the fine web which is left over and discard it.

In short make your tea that little bit greener by disposing of your teabag the right way!

100% Biodegradable paper is already here at Union Papertech and are being trialled in some of your favourite tea brands across the UK and Ireland and we’ll be revealing more very soon..!

If you have any questions or queries about biodegradable bags, please get in touch.