Helen Wilson, from Roker, has travelled extensively, but it was when visiting South East Asia that the impact of plastics on the ocean really hit home.
“I’ve done a lot of scuba diving in the past 10 years. I took a career break last year and was going back to dive sites I’d been to years before and they were noticeably different, the coral was dead,” she explained.
“When I was in Singapore I was watching the news about the Environment Minister turning away a shipping container of British plastic that was coming in to the port and it made me look more deeply into the issue of recycling.
“In the western world we don’t have the infrastructure to recycle all the plastic we use and much of it ends up being sold to developing countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, as for them it’s a way of buying their way into the global economy. It ends up going to landfill in places like Sri Lanka and gets into the food chain of the oceans. I was walking on the beach there in January this year and it was full of plastic.”
Helen was in Japan in March this year when news broke of a potential lockdown and she managed to make it home to Sunderland before travel restrictions were imposed.
Back home, she decided to do something to tackle the problem of plastics and began researching how to create her own business. Inspired by milk rounds which reuse bottles, she set up The Bottle Swap to deliver liquid household cleaning and personal care products in glass and other reusable bottles directly to your door on weekly rounds.
All products are are eco-friendly, vegan, cruelty free, and sourced from UK manufacturers and are a more ethical way for consumers to buy everything from shampoo and conditioner to deodorant, detergent, sunscreen and washing up liquid.
Customers can also buy plastic-free products, such as compostable sponges, dental floss, straws and wooden toothbrushes.
Despite the website only going live in the last few weeks, Helen has already been inundated with orders.
“I had a soft launch and wasn’t expecting the amount of positive attention it received. I received 40 orders in the first three days and was blown away,” she said. “I think in lockdown people started to think more about the products they were buying and the impact that has on the earth.”
Much like a milk bottle delivery, people can leave their empty bottles outside which can be picked up and replaced with their next order.
Helen delivers to all SR postcodes, as well as postcodes across Durham, South Tyneside and Northumberland. Each set of postcodes has a specific day for deliveries, with free delivery for orders over £20. The minimum spend is £5, with a £3 delivery charge for orders under £20.