Protest at Barry's Tea HQ but company says it's making progress on single use plastics in its teabags

Protest at Barry's Tea HQ but company says it's making progress on single use plastics in its teabags

Michelle Byrne and Alex Barton of Uplift. Pic: Alana Daly Mulligan

Eco-campaigners brought a giant cardboard cup of plastic to Barry’s Tea headquarters in Cork to highlight their ongoing battle to have plastic removed from the popular product.

Uplift campaigners delivered the 13,000 signature petition to Barry’s Tea Headquarters in Cork on Tuesday, continuing their two-year campaign to have the company remove all plastic from their teabags.

Some teabags produced by Barry’s are sealed with a petroleum-based plastic called polypropylene that does not decompose but the company says that soon all their teabag products will be 100% fully biodegradable.
Some teabags produced by Barry’s are sealed with a petroleum-based plastic called polypropylene that does not decompose but the company says that soon all their teabag products will be 100% fully biodegradable.

Alongside the petition, campaigners brought a giant mug of Barry’s Tea - made out of recycled cardboard and filled with plastic from their recycling bins - to highlight plastic use in some teabags.

Some teabags produced by Barry’s are sealed with a petroleum-based plastic called polypropylene that does not decompose but the company says that soon all their teabag products will be 100% fully biodegradable.

Uplift, a campaigning community of more than 340,000 people across the island, have been campaigning on this issue for several years after one of their members started a petition highlighting the issue.

Barry’s promised to remove plastic in 2018 but the organisation said that Barry’s Tea has been “dragging their heels” in following through on their promise.

However, a Barry's Tea spokesperson said: "Many of the claims made by the Uplift press release are inaccurate. Very recently we proactively engaged with Uplift to update them on our company’s progress via email, which they confirmed receipt of."

The spokesperson for Barry's Tea also said: "In addition to the inaccuracies, it’s disappointing that they have chosen to ignore the significant progress we’ve made.

"We know how important sustainable living is to our tea fans, it’s important to us too. Because of this, we started on our journey some time ago.

"Our tea boxes are 100% recyclable and printed using vegetable-based inks.

"Our products are Rainforest Alliance Certified - meaning our tea is grown and harvested on farms and estates that promote environmental, social and economic sustainability.

"More recently, we’ve been working to switch our production to biodegradable tea bags that can be disposed of in your brown bin for composting. We have made significant investment in the necessary design and technology to make this happen. In spite of Covid challenges, we’re succeeding.

"In October 2020, 70% of all Barry’s Tea teabags were biodegradable.

"Now 100% of all the teabags produced within our 80’s and 160’s box range, as well as our new Infusions range, are 100% biodegradable.

"Within 6 months, 100% of our teabags produced will be fully biodegradable.

"For an independent, family-owned, Irish business - this is a huge milestone. We credit our team’s passion and ambition in making these positive changes and we look forward to completing the journey early next year."

Under pressure from Uplift members, Barry’s promised to remove plastic in 2018 but the organisation said that Barry’s Tea has been “dragging their heels” in following through on their promise.
Under pressure from Uplift members, Barry’s promised to remove plastic in 2018 but the organisation said that Barry’s Tea has been “dragging their heels” in following through on their promise.
Michelle Byrne and Alex Barton of Uplift. Pic: Alana Daly Mulligan
Michelle Byrne and Alex Barton of Uplift. Pic: Alana Daly Mulligan

Uplift campaigner Michelle Byrne said: “The government is currently discussing changes to the proposed Climate Action Bill that we want to see contain action on single-use plastics - we want Barry’s to take action on single-use plastic tea bags too.

“More people are beginning to live more sustainable lifestyles and these tea bags cannot be composted and ultimately, will contribute to more plastic ending up in our seas and rivers - harming our beautiful country.

“The issue really highlights that the consumer can only do so much when it comes to reducing plastic in their day to day lives, the real decision-makers on how much plastic we use are the companies and the policies that allow them to do it.”

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