International Women's Day Melinda Watson

Our very own plastic pioneer for International Women’s Day – Melinda Watson

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate amazing women in all walks of life. For us, it’s a chance to shine a light on plastic campaigner, sustainable designer and founder of RAW Foundation and RAW Bottles, Melinda Watson.

Tracking South America’s plastic footprint

If you follow our blog or social channels, you’ll know that Melinda is on the final leg of her journey tracking the plastic footprint of South America with her charity, RAW Foundation. This epic, five-month expedition has been a world-first, taking in South America’s coastlines, lakes, wetlands and rivers; some of the most important ecosystem providers on the planet.

Melinda has travelled the entire length and breadth of South America with her trusty quadrant, which she drops at 100km intervals to collect and analyse all the plastic waste she finds, including microparticles and microfibres.

Melinda doing one of many beach transects in South America

On her journey, Melinda has also seen first-hand the devastating impact of plastic pollution on wildlife, including seals, sea turtles, many birds and Magellanic penguins. She has heard the stories of locals battling to preserve their small part of the planet and investigated how inadequate infrastructures are failing local communities.

Melinda says:

“I have organised this expedition to deliver one central message: the proliferation of single-use plastics has to STOP. It is contaminating precious water systems, threatening marine life, passing up the food chain, affecting human health, impacting wildlife and encouraging a throwaway consumer culture across the world. I’m passionate about the need for urgent, effective and radical responses to our apocalyptic plastic challenge. We can do something and we must. There is no time to waste.”

The inspiration for RAW Foundation

RAW Foundation was originally set-up in honour of Rory, Melinda’s son, who died suddenly and tragically in a road accident on his Gap year whilst in Goa. He was 18 years old and had just accepted a position to study Sustainable Product Design at Falmouth University as an undergraduate the following year.

He was a highly talented, huge ball of energy. Honouring his unfulfilled and unfinished story to pursue his design and sustainability aspirations, and mirroring Melinda’s own studies and passion, she set-up a foundation to help raise awareness with young people around our use of materials and to help defend, protect and change the way we are exploiting our planet – in order to primarily save it for our children.

Finding a positive solution with RAW Bottles

Melinda’s extensive collaborations with festivals has resulted in many large-scale events significantly reducing their consumption of single-use plastic on-site, including working with WaterAid to make Glastonbury the first Refill water festival site.

During this work, Melinda saw the need for a solution to reduce the number of single-use plastic water bottles at festivals and events. She spent time developing and designing a stainless-steel reusable water bottle which could be branded and sold at events, and RAW Bottles was born.

Last year, RAW Bottles officially launched, with a mission to rid the world of pointless plastic and feed profits back into the education and campaigning work of the foundation.

RAW Bottles has already supplied a number of big festivals including Shambala, Boomtown, Port Eliot, Jamie’s Farm, Green Gathering and more. And, Melinda is carrying her trusty RAW Bottle on her journey, along with her steripen, proving that even in the most remote corners of the world, single-use plastic really is pointless!

And that’s not all…

Melinda has already investigated Africa’s plastic footprint, engaging some of the most remote communities on the planet around the topic of plastic waste. During this trip she built a following of 50,000 Facebook fans, and it culminated in a series of RAW Talks and a high-profile exhibition, with Jeremy Irons as a speaker. She has also been awarded a highly-coveted Earth Champions ‘Change Agent’ award for her solutions-focused commitment to the planet.

Read all our Plastic Pioneer interviews here – we’d love to hear your suggestions for people or organisation to feature in future. Contact us with any suggestions.