Tom Benford, a former student from the University of Sheffield, set up his own business whilst in his first year of study. He began the business in May 2018 after seeing his university kitchen covered with plastic straws after a student party the night before.

The business is called Plastic Phobia and it started online in July 2018. It has since begun selling wholesale to other companies. They currently supply over 200 retailers.

Tom was a first-year economics student when he set up the business a year and a half ago. After forming the business out of his student flat, he has since dropped out of university to focus on running the business full-time. 

Tom’s room before he dropped out of uni

The products that Plastic Phobia sell are made from recycled materials, such as reusable bamboo straws, bamboo dishcloths and coconut bowls.  Many of the products are alternatives to popular products typically made out of plastic, such as toothbrushes and combs. 

The company seeks to inspire people to develop more sustainable consumer habits and reduce plastic from factory to consumer. A priority is to ensure that the process remains zero waste throughout the supply chain.

The company’s aim is to reduce plastic use as plastic can be very harmful for the environment. Most plastics are made from materials that take a long time to decompose and therefore cannot properly be disposed of.

Plastics are also often dumped on land and in waterways and oceans. Animals, in particular sea creatures, often mistake plastic for food, particularly when it has been broken down into smaller pieces. Fragments of plastic have been found in over 90 per cent of the world’s sea birds. 

Plastic Phobia are “committed to providing the very best Zero Waste Wholesale services in the UK, Europe, and beyond,” their website reads. As the business continues to grow, they hope to make Sheffield live up to its name as the greenest city in Europe. 

Other members of Plastic Phobia’s team are also former University of Sheffield graduates, including Abi Baker (Sales Coordinator) and Shelby Storey (Marketing Coordinator). 

The company has grown quickly and has moved to a unit in Sheffield. They now operate solely as a wholesaler.


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