Meet the woman who’s declared war on plastic
We met Beth Noy, the founder of Plastic Freedom, an online shop collating the best plastic-free brands around. She's got some brilliant advice for us all.
It’s interesting how buying a plastic bottle of water on the go has gone from normal, everyday behaviour to totally unacceptable in the space of a year, isn’t it? Ditto arriving at the supermarket and realizing that – oh, the shame! – you’ve forgotten your reusable bags. And rightly so – as you might just have heard, we are living in times of eco-emergency.
Like everyone else, I’ve been trying to reduce my household’s consumption of single-use plastic so I was really keen to nab Beth Noy, founder of plastic-free online retailer Plastic Freedom, for a chat. The 28-year-old is a total dynamo who hunts down eco-friendly beauty buys, kitchen products, homewares, clothes, gifts and much more, so we can start swapping out the bad stuff for more environmentally-friendly options. She’s so enthusiastic, in no way judgey and has a good eye for design – basically, you don’t have to compromise on style or quality to reduce your plastic footprint. Here’s what Beth had to say.
What got your started on your mission to banish single-use plastic?
It was a pot of humous that sent me over the edge! I eat a lot of humous and just thought, where do these plastic pots go? I live near a beautiful beach in Southport and I’d go for a bike ride or walk my dog and the sand would be littered with plastic bottles in all different colours. This was in 2017 and I snapped and decided that I wasn’t going to buy plastic any more.
How did you get started? It’s so hard to avoid the stuff.
I know. And it’s not just plastic products themselves, it’s all the packaging, especially in supermarkets. I started hunting out plastic-free products, gradually swapping out things as I went along. It’s so difficult though – I remember buying a plastic-free, reusable razor online and it arrived in plastic packaging, so even if you’re making a conscious choice, you can get tripped up. I joined Facebook support groups for people going plastic-free where you can chat about alternatives. Some people think you should make everything yourself but I thought it was unrealistic for most of us to make our own shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and so on, so I started collating my favourite plastic-free products to buy and the business grew from there.
You have a huge following on Instagram – 182k followers – it seems you’ve really hit a nerve with this?
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Yes, I think part of that is because I try to keep things positive. We see horrible things on the news every day about plastic pollution but if you just focus on the negative, you don’t know where to start. I’m all about looking for solutions, making it positive and fun, gently encouraging people to think about how they live their life. No matter who visits the site, whether you’re a hardcore environmentalist or you just like online shopping, we don’t judge.
Muddy readers tend to be very time poor – what quick, easy changes can we make?
I would start with the stuff you’re passionate about. If you’re into beauty, start looking around your bathroom and dressing table, seeing what’s currently made of plastic, make a list and start seeking out alternatives. If you’re into cooking, the kitchen is a good place to start – you might want to check out plastic-free cling film, which you can rinse off with warm water and reuse and only to buy loose fruit and veg from now on.
What’s the most genius plastic-free product you’ve discovered?
The one I’m most impressed with is the solid shampoo – they’re little cubes that aren’t manufactured using any water, and you just add water to use. They’re brilliant.
It feels like the beauty industry is the final frontier with this – almost everything comes encased in plastic and we don’t tend to have recycling bins in our bathrooms, do we?
Absolutely. Lots of people are looking for alternatives to facial cleansing wipes right now and those were one of the first things I personally stopped buying. We sell reusable make up remover pads that you use with an oil cleanser or micellar water and then bung in the wash. I’m also a big fan of Zao, who create make-up in reusable bamboo packaging. They’re the best cosmetics brand out there right now for reducing plastic. The pressed powders and blushers come in a recyclable aluminium tray that you can remove from the bamboo case and then buy a refill. They also do refillable mascaras.
What do you say to naysayers who think individual action is pointless and that we’re fighting a losing battle with pollution?
There are so many things in the world that we have no control over but being more eco-conscious is something every single person can do today, right now, and those actions add up over the years. If you said today, “I’m never going to buy another plastic bottle of shampoo again”, think about how many bottles that equates to over your lifetime. I started out as one person giving up plastic two years ago and we’ve now clocked up 20,000 orders.