Environment

Changemakers: Putting plastic-free in the shop window

Beth Noy decided to make life easier for consumers wishing to go plastic-free

It’s easy to talk about going plastic-free, and the range of alternatives is growing by the day. But few of us have the time to research and source replacements for everything we rely on in day-to-day life, making it a lifestyle which risks being the preserve of the wealthy. Southport’s Beth Noy knew the solution was simple – gather the best, cheapest plastic-free alternatives to everyday items together in one place. That’s what she did with Plastic Freedom, an online one-stop shop for the most affordable products that are kind to the environment and take the thinking out of changing your habits. Just two years later the project has outgrown her spare room to become a business attracting hundreds of thousands of orders.

Noy left school at 16 to go to college but dropped out after two weeks having decided it wasn’t for her. She went on to work for her family’s bike company, Leisure Lakes Bikes, running the marketing and online operation for 12 years. But living by the sea, Noy, now 28, found it increasingly difficult to ignore the impact of plastic on the environment. “When I started to cut it out of my own life, I was in a lot of closed Facebook groups with lots of people all trying to do the same,” she tells The Big Issue. “All the advice that was being given was ‘if you want to cut out plastic then just create your own [version] of everything’. It wasn’t practical. I didn’t have time to sit there and make all my own lotions and potions and I knew other people wouldn’t either. In the process of swapping out products in my own home it became clear that there’s no chance of getting people to switch to plastic free when they have to go to 20 difference places.

“It made me think about how you should be able to buy plastic-free products with as much ease as popping to the supermarket. If it’s easy for people they’re more likely to make changes.”

In early 2018, still working full time on her family’s business, she made a basic website and had it up and running within two weeks. She bought in her first load of stock – about £200 worth of products she already used and liked herself – and posted it on her social media networks. She sold out of everything that first weekend and started offering delivery for people in the local area.

“It took off straight away,” she says. “Giving people one button to press instead of having to go and research everything themselves makes all the difference. And I was never some big corporation looking to make money, just a person trying to streamline things so everyone could make changes in their own lives, which I think helps.”

Plastic Freedom stocks everything from soaps and cleaning products, clothes and cosmetics to kitchen essentials, homewares and food. Besides being plastic-free, much of what’s on offer is made from natural ingredients, vegan and manufactured by small companies trying to do some good who couldn’t reach such a huge customer base otherwise.

Plastic Freedom is now a team of five – still small given the size of the operation, but Noy wants to keep the family feel in her own business – and despite having started in her spare room is about to move into a 3,400sq ft warehouse.

Going forward the company will have one tree planted for every order. “I’m aware that since we don’t use plastic we use a lot more cardboard and paper. You don’t want to create another problem while trying to fix another. And during the climate crisis a lot of people say one of the best things you can do is plant trees. I’ve got plans to allow our customers to choose where the trees they pay for are planted,” she says.

Those aren’t the only plans in store for Plastic Freedom. Noy reckons that in the next 12 months the company will reach an annual turnover of £1m, and knows one thing is clear: the appetite for plastic-free convenience isn’t going away.

Noy’s top three plastic-free essentials

Beauty Kubes shampoo, made of dry biodegradable materials which form a paste when you take them in the bath or shower. They’re all natural, contain no chemicals and don’t strip the natural oils from your hair. Plus there’s no liquid so you can travel with them easily.

Upcircle, a London brand that repurposes used coffee grounds and chai spices to make top-notch skincare.

Wild Sage & Co was the first brand I ever stocked. They do an oil cleanser which takes your make-up off. It works a dream. Cosmetics products tend to be hard to pull off because regulation often requires plastic to keep things hygienic.

plasticfreedom.co.uk

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