Joanna Poulton

Plastic Pioneer – Joanna Poulton, founder of Waste Not Bristol

At RAW we’re always meeting and hearing about amazing people, projects and companies on the same mission as us – to create a world free from pointless plastic. So, we decided to start a regular feature telling their stories, whether they are on a one-person crusade to change the world or making strategic business decisions to influence the way their industry operates.

We’re starting with someone who we admire for her personal dedication to the cause – Joanna Poulton. She set up Waste Not Bristol from scratch on her own after she saw a need to help make plastic-free living more accessible. As she puts it “I’m not officially a business or a charity – just an individual raising money to directly fund kits that I donate to charities.” We caught up with Joanna to find out more about this brilliant initiative…

In a nutshell, tell us about yourself and Waste Not Bristol

I’m Jo, 25 years old, I’ve been living on and off canal boats in Bristol for the past three years and have been trying to actively reduce the amount of waste I create and plastic I purchase for the past year.

I spent six weeks on a reforestation project in India where my passion for zero waste living really manifested. I found that a lot of ‘eco’ products were pretty expensive and felt frustrated that they weren’t widely accessible to those with less disposable income. So I came back from that trip with a fire in my belly – wanting to enable others to have access to reusable items that helped me drastically reduce my waste.

Why is the plastic issue so important to you?

I still feel like we can make a difference. Despite the news, with climate catastrophe facts flooding our newsfeeds I am optimistic and truly believe people want to do the best thing to protect our planet – with time, resources and the right tools I really think small changes can amount to a big global impact.

I think making lower waste lifestyles truly accessible and convenient through direct action and legislation is the best thing we can do to curb our excessive use of packaging.

I hope that through donating the plastic free #accesskits to the charities Refugee Women of Bristol, Help the Homeless Bristol & Creative Youth Networks I’ll reach a wide range of the community.

Waste Not Bristol’s brilliant zero waste kits include RAW Bottles

The kits that include a bamboo Truthbrush, Georganics tooth powder, Balm of Gilead solid Soap, an organic tote bag and RAW’s amazing stainless steel bottles. I hope they will encourage people to make these small habitual changes that will eventually lead a more mindful relationship with plastic.

What are you doing to tackle plastic pollution and what problems and successes have you had along the way?

Through living on a canal boat – I had to be very conscious of what I was putting down my drains, so I made the switch to natural products/cleaners/ cosmetics and through that also noticed I wasn’t buying plastic packaging anymore. I refill my washing up liquid at Better Food – use soy wax wraps instead of cling film – made Tupperware my best friend and take my reusable water bottle everywhere with me!

City to Sea’s refill app has made it so much easier to never need to buy water in the city again – in those moments when I do have to buy packaging I try to stick to tinned foods and glass (they can be recycled lots).

What would you say to convince others to take action on plastic?

You can make a difference. Your example alone will inspire others.

What do you think your industry/peers should be doing to make a difference collectively?

Whether you work in a school/office/swimming pool/on the moon – there are always ways to reduce waste – and you’d be surprised by how on board people can be!

Look to buy in bulk to save money and packaging and look at where can you reuse things. Could you order toilet roll that comes in paper instead of plastic? Could you change out polystyrene cups for infinitely reusable mugs? Could you encourage others in your place of work to recycle? Do you really need to print that email?

Alongside these practical changes – we should never underestimate the power of politics – write to you MP about the waste collection in your area – visit your local community garden – help them fundraise? Once you start seeing all the amazing things happening it only adds momentum to the cause.

Can you tell us about some other inspiring plastic pioneers or projects that you admire, and why?

I love the direct action of ‘Plastic Attack’ organising events where people return the plastic packaging to the stores.

City to Sea is incredibly inspiring and I feel hugely privileged to be in a city like Bristol that feels so engaged with this issue. Through direct action, online campaigning, awesome apps and a really cool outlook on the issue, City to Sea has been super inspiring for this project.

There are also amazing charities like Incredible Edible Bristol who plant edible plants in public parks for anyone in the community to enjoy and a whole host of amazing zero waste stores that are striving to make zero waste living more accessible to name a few: Preserve, Zero Green, Harvest Bristol, Earthbound, Wild Oats and Better Food.

How can people find out more about your plastic-free quest?

You can find me on Instagram @wastenotbristol – if everything goes well this year I’ll be running another funding round next year!