Meet the Business # 30 : Plastic Phobia

We all know that the zero-waste lifestyle has become incredibly popular from time to time. And even if the road to reducing your carbon footprint is not that easy, we have businesses bringing solutions to move us toward a more sustainable life.

I have talked to many of those businesses here on my blog. So, let me introduce you to Plastic Phobia as you probably guessed, is working directly with manufacturers, offering plastic-free supply chain products.

Tom Benford was inspired to start his business after seeing his kitchen covered in plastic straws after a student party, opening then the online plastic-free shop in July 2018.

Midlands Traveller: Tell me a little bit about your background in business.

Tom Benford: I started Plastic Phobia while studying Economics at University and then dropped out of my degree a few months later as I got too busy with the business.


MT: When did you first start to be involved in an ethical + Eco-friendly lifestyle?

 TB: It was during my first year at University. My flat hosted a student party and it got a bit messy. The following morning, I stumbled into the kitchen to find it a wreck with the floor littered with plastic straws. Tidying up made me realise how much we waste as a society.

MT: How did you come up with the idea of a business like yours?

 TB: The plastic straws got me thinking, there must be a better alternative. I remembered a friend had previously mentioned steel drinking straws, so I decided to start distributing them.

In July 2018 I opened an online shop. I bought 10 soap dishes from a UK wholesaler and received them all individually wrapped in plastic.

In that moment, it struck me that I needed to go directly to factories to ensure the whole supply chain is Eco-friendly, not just the final product. Gradually we started supplying shops in the UK and now most of our business is wholesale.


MT: Tell me about Plastic Phobia’s mission and what products and services do you offer?

TB: We strive to create thoroughly Eco-friendly products and supply chains.

This is in line with the current trend of sustainable consumerism, where our buying habits are less damaging to the planet. Our product includes bamboo soap dishes, bamboo cotton buds, and toothpaste tablets.

MT: What is unique about Plastic Phobia?

 TB: By working directly with factories we can remove plastic from the transportation process. Most UK wholesalers receive their products wrapped in tons of bubble wrap because

Chinese manufacturers are so used to doing so. Whereas often the only plastic used to transport our products from factory to Sheffield is plastic sticky tape. Soap dishes are individually wrapped in tissue paper.

We like to reduce plastic from processes that customers can’t see as this is often overlooked. In addition, we offset the carbon emissions of transport of goods and have so far planted more than 1500 trees. We then use zero waste packaging for all orders from customers.


MT: What is your kind of clientele?

 TB: Most of our customers are zero waste shops in the UK. They can be found at market stalls, on the high street, and online. We also supply greengrocers, health food shops, vegan shops, spas, and village shops.

 MT: What are the challenges of a business like yours?

TB: Disrupting common practices can take a lot of effort pressuring suppliers.

Preventing goods from being damaged while in transit from China or to wholesale customers can be difficult because we obviously don’t use bubble wrap. Most of our packaging is re-used from suppliers and even packaging that wholesale customers have returned.

MT: How is Plastic Phobia helping businesses to adapt themselves to a more sustainable market?

TB: We make it easy for shops to source products with ethical production processes guaranteed.


MT: How do you choose the products and brands that are available on your website?

 TB: Most of our products are our own brand as then we have more control over the ethics of the production process. We choose factories based on their willingness to comply with our strict plastic-free requirements.

MT: What advice would you give to someone thinking about joining a zero-waste lifestyle?

TB: Focus on reducing your waste rather than eliminating it. Take baby steps and focus on one part of your lifestyle at a time. Don’t become overwhelmed, have patience and enjoy the process of adopting more sustainable habits.

MT: How are social media important to the success of your business?

TB: For the first six months, I was extremely busy with packing parcels and e-mails but have recently started hiring. Social media is something I have neglected up to this point but now I have extra hands to help out, I hope to spread our message far and wide.

 MT: What are the next steps for Plastic Phobia?

TB: In February 2019, we moved out of the student house and into a workshop. This allowed us to start hiring and begin expanding again. We are focused on having a massive, global impact on the plastic crisis.

If we think big, we can have a global impact on plastic pollution together with our growing network of dedicated retailers and suppliers.


Follow Plastic Phobia on Social Media

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Photos| Reproduction from Plastic Phobia on Facebook. 

Simone Ribeiro
Hi! I'm Simone, a citizen of Britain, where I live for over a decade, and of Brazil, where I was born. Midlands Traveller is where I combine my passion for travelling, business and an Eco-friendly lifestyle.