Hull graduate tackling plastics pollution with silicone straw business

11th May

University of Hull graduate Charlotte Walsh is leading the charge against single-use plastics through her innovative silicone straw business.

Charlotte, who has worked for several international medical device companies since leaving the university, has now founded The Silicone Straw Company.

After growing disheartened at seeing the rubbish left behind by visitors close to her home in the Yorkshire Dales, Charlotte decided to take a stand.

The medical engineering graduate has developed her manufacturing process, which enables the silicone straws to be made in the UK, in an eco-friendly, cost-effective way.

Charlotte said: “I live with my family in a picture-postcard village in the Yorkshire Dales, and feel so lucky to live somewhere that other people come on holiday.

“It’s beautiful, but sometimes the aftermath isn’t. Plastic bottles, coffee cups, sandwich wrappers and plastic straws wash downstream, a reminder of the everyday single-use plastics that we use and discard on a daily basis.

“Seeing the impact these have on our beautiful area got me thinking – how could I use my 15 years of manufacturing experience to make being green that little bit easier?”

The Silicone Straw Company’s products provide a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to the common single-use plastic straw.

Designed and made in the UK, the products are better for both the environment and the local economy – helping to promote sustainable living while also considering ethical impact.

Over the past 50 years, plastic has revolutionised the way people live. But today, we generate a staggering amount of plastic waste, with an estimated 12 million tonnes entering the world’s oceans each year.

It has been predicted that by 2050, unless drastic action is taken, there will be more plastic than fish in our seas.

“It was important to me to manufacture in the UK, so I can ensure product quality and also support the UK manufacturing industry,” Charlotte said.

“Also, it just didn’t make sense to me that people might be buying something to help protect the planet, yet it had been made and imported half way across the world.”

Charlotte graduated from the University of Hull with a First-Class MSc degree in product innovation, and an MSc in medical engineering.

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She said her time at Hull proved crucial in lining up both her career after graduation, and in setting up her own business.

“The fantastic thing about my time spent at Hull is that it set me up perfectly for my career later down the line,” Charlotte said.

“It is testament to the university that I was able to go on to forge my own successful business thanks to the skills I picked up from my time there.”

Charlotte has launched her silicone straw business at a critical time.

The UK Government recently launched a 25-year strategy that aims to reduce the amount of avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

At the core of the strategy is an urgent need to drastically reduce the amount of plastic pollution which ends up in our oceans – causing destruction to marine habitats and ecosystems.

Last October, a nationwide ban on businesses selling single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds also came into force.

At the University of Hull, a Plastics Collaboratory comprising more than 45 academics from areas including politics, law, chemistry, health, education and logistics are working to understand the pathways and interactions of plastics in the environment.

It looks to identify gaps and leaks in a plastics circular economy, and explore and develop new pathways to an enhanced circularity in plastics use.

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