The incredible way a homeless woman turned business owner plans to ban plastic in the North

It’s no wonder this shop is nominated for a £10,000 Yorkshire Bank cash prize…

Northern business woman, Emily Gleaves and founder of a zero-waste shop, is a woman on a mission.

Her admirable aims are to help the homeless, get plastic bags banned in Merseyside and educate others to save the planet via her business.

Based in Merseyside, Waste Not Want Not is a vegan, palm oil-free grocery store where customers bring or purchase refillable containers to take home loose dried food, skincare and cleaning products.

It’s part of the national Refill network, which encourages the public to fill their reusable water bottles for free at stores signed up to the scheme – instead of buying plastic ones.

SHORTLISTED TO FIVE IN REGIONAL COMPETITION

“I’ve always been conscious about the environment and animal welfare,” Emily explains. “Then I read about zero-waste shops and thought – I need to get to one of those! But when I checked, the nearest was 40 miles away.”

Her niche venture is turning heads – and has recently been shortlisted for a business competition run by Heart Radio – putting it in the running for a £10,000 cash prize granted by Yorkshire Bank.

“We were looking for businesses with a strong community focus and a distinctive character,” explains Gavin Opperman, Group Business Banking Director.

Emily decided to quit her job as an energy consultant to set up the venture in 2018, financing it via Crowdfunding.

She says: “I raised enough money to buy a water filter and some stock, starting with non-food items, such as bamboo toothbrushes and refillable deodorants in glass jars, then adding the food items within two months.

“Halfway down the line I added the NutraMilk machinee that makes oat milk, nut milk and soya milk using filtered water from scratch.

“Refillable laundry detergents are also really popular. The detergent comes from a Wirral-based company so keeps it local.”

Twelve years ago Emily, from Wirral, was homeless for six months. Since establishing Waste Not Want Not, she has provided work experience opportunities for homeless or recently rehoused people.

“I wanted to help people get back into work,” she says. “I know how difficult it can be – so I give volunteers work experience to help them get their lives back on track.”

She also works tirelessly to educate the community on how to be more eco-friendly and cut plastic usage, dedicating each Tuesday to workshops in schools, businesses and the wider community.

One example is her community EcoBricks workshops. EcoBricks, made from non-recyclable plastics, were used to create a tree in Birkenhead Park where a collection of EcoBrick benches are soon to follow.

WHAT THE CASH PRIZE COULD MEAN

Waste Not Want Not beat hundreds of hopefuls to the shortlist of five northern companies in the Heart Radio competition.

Listeners were asked to nominate small businesses in their communities which they felt deserved a helping hand – and the chance at a £10,000 cash booster from Yorkshire Bank is perfect timing for Emily’s business.

She says: “I am outgrowing the market now – there’s a big list of stock I want to get in, so I’ll need to expand. I do a lot of work for free. A cash injection would help me invest back into the business, which would in turn help other people.”

She is also running a campaign to ban plastic bag usage in the North, with focus on Merseyside, after Greenpeace research revealed the Mersey as the most polluted river in the UK.

 

Yorkshire Bank is a trading name of Clydesdale Bank plc.

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