How a blocked toilet led to my "eureka moment": A sustainable business owner’s story

Elle is 26 and the co-founder of a biodegradable wet wipe business.

Trained as a scientist, Elle spent most of her time shut away in a lab, until her friend’s blocked toilet catapulted her career in a whole new direction.

Elle's journey

Elle’s lightbulb moment happened over breakfast, when a friend shared that he’d blocked his toilet because he’d been flushing non-biodegradable wet wipes. Needless to say, no one had much of an appetite after this!

Elle was already a bit of an “eco-warrior” but her friend’s dilemma, coupled with her background in science, inspired her to find a solution. The aim? To develop a biodegradable, truly flushable wet wipe.

After months of hard work, tonnes of testing and lots of hanging around sewage plants, Elle and her team finally cracked it.

How can biodegradable wet wipes help the planet?

Non-biodegradable wet wipes don’t break down in water so they have to be filtered out at sewage works and sent to landfill sites. This is expensive and they can take years and years to break down.

Sometimes, wet wipes and other non-biodegradable waste, ends up stuck in the sewers causing massive obstructions known as ‘fatbergs’. Fatbergs are also expensive to remove.

In 2018, a fatberg was found in the London sewers that weighed 130 tonnes. It was the twice the size of the football pitch at Wembley and took nine weeks to get rid of.

Some wet wipes eventually wash up in rivers and on beaches. The tiny plastic fibres in the wipes can be ingested by fish and marine life, sometimes causing them to die, or entering into the food chain.

Biodegradable wet wipes, on the other hand, will break down in water which means no more nasty waste clogging up our sewers and oceans.

What to expect if you want to own your own business

Working for yourself looks different for each person and each business, but in general it means you:

  • run your own business and are responsible for its success

  • can decide how, when and where you do your work

  • charge an agreed, fixed price to perform your work

  • sell goods or services to make a profit

  • can hire people at your own expense to help you or to do the work for you.

The salary and working hours when you own a business can vary enormously but what's most important is you work hard and love what you do.

You can be both employed and self-employed at the same time. You can work for your employer during the day, for example, and run your own business in the evenings and at weekends. It’s important to contact HMRC for advice if you’re not sure if you’re self-employed.

You can get help with setting up or developing your business, through the government’s business support services, for example, for advice about tax or about how to find funding to start your business.

Source: GOV.UK

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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