Tom grows eco-business from student flat to wholesale supplier

First year University of Sheffield student Tom Benford launched his zero-waste business Plastic Phobia from his flat – and has grown it into a wholesale operation reaching 250 businesses.

Lincoln-born Tom was shocked by the plastic waste left after a student party, and saw one of his friends rinsing out a plastic straw for re-use. He thought “there’s got to be a better way.”

He found an ethical supplier of metal straws and started an online shop, expanding the range to include bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo cutlery, and many other kitchen and bathroom eco-products. Tom took over his Uni flat to set up Plastic Phobia’s first warehouse, however as the company grew it became necessary to move to larger premises. Plastic Phobia is now based in Alison Business Centre in Sheffield.

Tom said: “I wanted to do something that would have a great impact on the world.” Plastic Phobia soon expanded into wholesale services, and in September 2019 closed its online shop to focus solely on its wholesale customers. It supplies over 250 retailers ranging from zero waste shops and vegan wholefoods stores, to cleaning and hygiene organisations and pubs. “My hope is that Plastic Phobia will supply many small and large businesses across the world, which will make zero waste products more widely available,” he said.

In October 2019 Tom was invited to the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner where he was surprised with the honour of receiving the President’s Young Entrepreneur 2019 Award, which he considers to be his greatest accomplishment. The company has gone from strength to strength and is expanding quickly.