Reimagining the way we shop for everyday essentials

This week PFS is catching up with one of our most recent Plastic Free Champions, Michelle Martell from The Eco Shop, a newly opened refill shop just outside Stamford in Great Casterton. Here you’ll find a wide range of household essentials from dry foods and snacks to cleaning products and bathroom favourites, but without having to overload on plastic.

The Eco Shop is anything but your standard local store and Michelle is working hard to make refill shopping accessible to everyone…..

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to focus on opening a refill shop and going plastic free? 

Michelle Martell: I noticed Stamford had no options for people to refill on products and reduce plastic waste*. My motivation was around the oceans, the pollution and waste of single use plastic, that is not necessary but significantly damages our world – polluting our oceans, land and harming wildlife.

PFS: Can you tell us a bit about what people can expect from coming to your shop?

MM: They can expect a friendly personal shopping experience, with plastic free, quality products that have not been stored in a supermarket for a long time. I stock sustainable products where possible, that are vegan, cruelty free and with no nasty chemicals.

PFS: And how do people shop with you?

MM: Customers can order online and choose a slot to visit to fulfil their orders, or message me directly to book. Since lock down has lifted, customers are now able to visit after 1pm on Tuesdays and Fridays without appointments. You simply bring your clean containers – ice cream tubs, jam jars, margarine tubs, anything you already have at home, you can bring – and I do the rest. You can even leave containers with me to sort while you get on with your day. You then pay on fulfillment and collection of the order.

PFS: What about the bulk packaging you have – can you tell us a bit more about this?

MM: Most products come in FCS approved packaging that can be recycled, or is naturally biodegradable. Some items do come in plastic, but my wholesaler will take these back and recycle. Some other products are on a closed loop system, so they reuse the containers over and over again.

PFS: Are your products more expensive than in regular supermarkets? 

MM: No, they are comparable with Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco and if I can sell the products cheaper I do. My aim is to reduce plastic waste and make it affordable for all.

PFS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to people using a refill shop and how can you help them overcome this? 

MM: People feel overwhelmed, not sure what to bring package wise or how it works. I advise people to bring plenty of containers and I will do the rest. During their first visit I explain the process and hopefully make them feel at ease about it.

PFS: What has been the most challenging thing about setting up The Eco Shop? 

MM: My location and people finding me. I use social media a lot to promote my business as people will not naturally come across me as I am not in town, so keep an eye on social for updates!

PFS: And the best thing?

MM: The support I have received from customers, my family and friends. Most importantly, my recycling bin is so much lighter now and it’s great that people are really showing an interest in reducing waste.

*Stamford is incredibly lucky in that it now has three refill options – joining The Eco Shop, Refill Revolution offers a local refill delivery only service and ALL GOOD on St Paul’s Street has also recently opened. Each has their own distinct selection of products and unique selling points – they are all of course Plastic Free Champions.


Inspiring positive change in the home fragrance market and beyond

This week, Plastic Free Stamford caught up with Beth Pattison, from one of our local Plastic Free Champions, Freckleface Home Fragrance. Situated on the corner of Red Lion Square opposite All Saints Church, Freckleface make and sell their handmade vegan, environmentally friendly wax melts, candles, diffusers and bath products.

They are a family run business with a keen focus on sustainability, so we decided to find out more about their commitment to going plastic free and the positive impact it has had on their business…..

Plastic Free Stamford: We would love to know a bit more about why going plastic free was so important to you.

Beth Pattinson: We want to help create a more sustainable industry and help improve the future of our planet. Every day you hear about how we are damaging the world we live in and plastic plays a huge role within this. Plastic now seems like an obsolete material to use within our industry, and we hope we inspire other companies to do the same – after all we only have one world, and we need to look after it! 

PFS: How has going plastic free improved your business?

BP: For us, being plastic free was always going to be part of our ethics as a business. We want to build a business that is ethical and that we can be proud of. Being sustainable has always been important to us and even more so now we produce home fragrance in such large quantities. Our customers and stockists are also so much more aware of the damage that plastic is doing to the world, so they are looking for sustainable brands, so it’s a no brainer for us to improve our business and the planet at the same time.

PFS: What are your next steps on your plastic free journey?

BP: We want to continue to support our customers and other businesses in becoming more sustainable and plastic free. We are planning to offer easily accessible advice across our social media platforms and in store, as well as promoting other companies who have the same ethos as us. Long term, we are encouraging our staff to live more plastic free lives outside of work and we only want to engage with suppliers who share our values. 

PFS: How have people responded to your plastic free changes?

BP: The response has been overwhelmingly positive! The attitude towards plastic free living and sustainability is becoming more of a core value in many people’s lives and they love the fact Freckleface is playing a part in this. People appreciate the effort we have put in and as result it has attracted more customers to our brand.  

PFS: What would you say to other businesses out there about going plastic free?

BP: Going plastic free is one of the most rewarding experiences to do as a company. In business, we all have a moral responsibility to help ensure we are creating a better future for everyone and going plastic free is a great way to do this. Plastic free living is becoming the social norm and your business can play a key role in this change in attitude. 

PFS: What are your 3 top tips for going plastic free?

BP: 1.    Do your research – find out what companies and suppliers offer plastic free services, learn from others, and implement into your own business. 

2.    Start small- going completely plastic free does not happen overnight. Starting small can lead to big changes. Even simply switching to paper bags from plastic can make a huge difference for the environment.

3.    Ask for help- you are not alone! We are more than happy to help and advise any business who wants to become plastic free and there are lots of free resources out there now.


Humans can’t use bins

“Humans can’t use bins. You can have a million bins and they will still put rubbish next to the bin or just leave it. You can train a monkey to use a bin. You can train a bird to use a bin. But you can’t train humans to use a bin. The annoyance, the laziness, the fact that someone else will do it. And the fact that they just do not care,” so laments local legend and Stamford super fan, Neil McIvor at our recent catch up.

Neil is the founder of Pride of Stamford litter pickers. Instantly recognisable in his bright orange ex-RAC van, he and his team of volunteer litter pickers work tirelessly with local council workers to keep our town rubbish free.

“Half a century in the great outdoors has done nothing to degrade this piece of plastic”

He arrives for our chat in his trademark orange hoody, brandishing a favourite find in his hand – his trophy he calls it. It’s a plastic bottle he has had dated back to the late 60s. Dug up on one of his many litter picks, it looks good as new, bar a bit of mud. Half a century in the great outdoors has done nothing to degrade this piece of plastic – a powerful and depressing reminder of the longevity of single use plastic.

So if bins aren’t the answer to our litter problems, what is? Well, when it comes to plastic bottles, he has a plan. “We need a proper recycling scheme,” he explains. “We need to give 20p on every bottle to make it worthwhile for people to take it back. People would walk the streets taking them back too. Every plastic bottle. 20 pence. Not 5p. Not 10p. Not 7.5p. 20p.” It seems simple enough – they do it across Europe after all, but for some reason the UK government is loathed to do it. For now at least, in our local area we have to rely on the Pride of Stamford team. And with lockdown restrictions being lifted today, we’ll need them now more than ever, if Neil’s experience is anything to go by.

“There’s going to be a Tsunami of litter”

“When lockdown finishes, there’s going to be a tsunami of litter. It’s going to be insane,” Neil says. “We’ve got a perfect storm coming. With pubs not being open, beer gardens are open and you’ve got limited capacity with people still wanting to go out and drink. Last time, you had adults, children and teenagers all milling around on the meadows. The older ones had their plastic cups from the pub that they would just toss away – they’d had a few drinks and didn’t care. The kids would see the older generations leaving their rubbish and they would do the same. They would all just get up and walk away, make no effort to clean up.”

“People have been locked up. I understand that. They are going to want to let their hair down. I understand that completely. But it can be done responsibly. Put your rubbish in the bag you bought your stuff in. Put it in the bin. And if the bin is full, just tie the handle up and leave it by the bin, recycling your bag for your rubbish.”

This certainly seems like something we could all do when we’re next out for that oh so precious socially distanced drink with friends. And to put quantities into context, there have been days when, for example Neil, his team and council workers have collected 80 – 90 bags of rubbish from the meadows, rec and skate park alone. Yes, 90 bags of rubbish left on a single day. We can do better.

There’s no doubt that lockdown has brought its own challenges when it comes to single use plastic. Obviously the use of throw away masks and gloves have sky rocketed but it’s take away coffee cups that get the most air time from Neil.

“The litter pickers at Burghley have seen coffee cups go through the roof”

“Coffee cups – I’m afraid with the coffee shops shut, you’ve got the wanderers, the jugglers who go off to Burghley and the litter pickers at Burghley have seen coffee cups go through the roof. It’s insane. The plastic cap just never degrades and the cup just turns into a plastic mush that never degrades,” Neil explains.

But the problems don’t stop there. These coffee cups fill our bins to overflowing, taking up precious bin space and giving people yet another excuse to simply toss unwanted plastic on the floor. Crushing the cup and taking the caps off any empty plastic bottles you have before you put them in the bin is a simple way we can all help make a contribution to keeping our town clean.

Neil does then concede that it is not all doom and gloom. Thank goodness. With lockdown restrictions people have been getting out and walking more and as a result are seeing the litter problem first hand. Neil has been inundated with messages from people wanting to get involved, wanting to help make a difference, which is a huge step in the right direction.

One surprising benefit of lockdown has been the number of youngsters getting involved as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. With few other community-based projects available, many D of E-ers have turned to Neil and have enjoyed it so much, they’ve got their friends to join too. Neil also runs Mini Ninjas, taking youngsters to the rec to litter pick – he bills it a treasure hunt and they have a brilliant time. A new generation of Pride of Stamford litter pickers are taking up the reigns – long may it continue.

If you’d like to get involved with Pride of Stamford, they organise litter picks on the last Sunday of every month. Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Next time we’ll hear more from Neil about local litter hotspots and his latest venture to combat problem areas, Team Stamford.

Plastic Free Stamford calls for proper disposal of face masks

Co-ordinator of Plastic Free Stamford, Aled Pattinson, is urging people to dispose of their face masks correctly while out and about.

In an interview with the Stamford Mercury, Aled highlights the growing number of used masks and gloves littering the street. With many people not wanting to leave the house without these item to hand, he asks people using single use face masks and gloves, which cannot currently be recycled, to put them in the bin when they’re finished with them. You can read the full article here: