ELLIOTT MYATT – 100% PURE PASSION
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye / Photography by Pip Andersen
The vision, energy and fearlessness of millennials is often discounted by their perceived lack of maturity and need for experience. Not so in the case of Elliott Myatt.
At the age of just twenty-three, Elliott is making waves in the world of recycled plastic and, along with his father Adrian and best friend Guy Heynes, has run The Plastic Company and sister company Play Area Hygiene Services (PAHS) since 2015.
Photographer Pip Andersen and I recently took the trip down to Kingsbridge to meet with Elliott and find out how, at such a young age, he is running such a successful and environmentally conscious business.
Previously, his father had run a large cleaning business in the South Hams which incorporated the PAHS business within it and specialised in cleaning play equipment nationally. When his father put that business up for sale, Elliott picked up the phone to Guy and said, “Neither of us are really doing much with our lives. Why don’t we buy the company?”. They were both Second Cheffing in restaurant kitchens at the time and fancied making more of an impact on the world, so made the bold decision to go ahead and buy the business.
As he spoke about this process, I was impressed with his care-free, almost intrepid nature that said, “Why not us?”. It was the first of several moments in our conversation that his vibrant and fresh attitude to business really shone through.
At The Plastic Company, Elliott’s business partner Guy tends to run the operations side of things whereas; with an A-Level in Business, Elliott is responsible for the sales function of the business and Adrian looks after logistics.
It hasn’t always been an easy ride though. In their first month of doing business, they were travelling to a job in their new van when they hit an incredibly deep pothole, bursting their front tyre and setting the airbags off inside the van. Being only twenty years old at the time, they had to pay over five thousand pounds to repair the damage, as the Highways Agency weren’t interested in the fact that a 1 x 1.5m pothole which should have been filled caused the damage (even after Elliott and Guy took them to court and proved with the telemetric data of the vehicle that they were travelling far below the speed limit at the time of the incident).
Five thousand pounds is a significant sum of money for most businesses, let alone a brand-new business run by young adults. Nevertheless, they persevered and have worked hard to make sure that, what felt initially like a real hurdle to overcome, didn’t stand in the way of their business growth.
So, what do The Plastic Company do? Well, primarily, they sell a wide range of outdoor furniture, fencing, decking, bollards and garden equipment that are all made from 100% recycled plastic. The plastic mix that goes into their products include plastic bottles, bags and milk bottle caps. I was fascinated to find out, for example, that their typical picnic bench is made out of 65’000 bottle tops (650 per kilogram). That might sound like a lot, but if the rate that my kids eat cereal is anything to go by in the average UK household, I’m sure things add up quickly around the nation!
And furniture made from 100% recycled plastic has many benefits; namely that, as opposed to wooden alternatives, their products don’t rot, require maintenance or become damaged by weather or vandalism. It is no surprise, therefore, that some of the biggest clients of The Plastic Company are councils who can see the long-term cost saving of moving away from wooden furniture that requires regular repair and maintenance.
With an in-house designer who works to exacting EU standards and onsite fitters who implement whatever products have been purchased, The Plastic Co truly have a full-service approach which offers an incredibly attractive alternative to more traditional furniture made of other materials. They also specialise in indoor play equipment too, which is more of a niche industry than the outdoor market. All of their products are UK manufactured as well so, as well as being more sustainable, they haven’t travelled half way around the world to get to their end-user.
So, what about Elliott himself? What makes him tick?
As we chatted over a coffee, I was interested to find out a little more about his background. He had a torrid time at school, struggling with Dyslexia and an education system that, in his opinion, produces exam-passers rather than stirs a passion for knowledge or values practical skills and business acumen. Elliott talked openly about how playing rugby really helped with his self-confidence and social skills, which enabled him to navigate the more difficult times at school.
He also shared how this less-than-positive experience at school has given him a passion to work with young people and inspire them to follow their actual dreams in life rather than the sometimes-limiting options presented by the education system. This has lead to a recent project with Kingsbridge Community College, working with their A-Level students and offering mentoring and coaching, including honest advice about his experience in business. For him to be able to pass on his first-hand experience from someone not that much older than them is surely a powerful thing.
Elliott stopped in his tracks at this point in our conversation and, in a rare moment of frustration, said,
“Why are trades so frowned upon? Why is a university degree so important if that isn’t the type of learning and qualification that you need? Being academic isn’t the main thing that will make you successful in life. Attitude and passion are far more important in my opinion. For example, a lot of the people that I did Business A-Level with, many of whom got better grades than me, are now working in pubs and scraping together a living, whereas I am running a successful business. It just proves that grades aren’t everything.”.
Elliott also talked about The Plastic Company’s sponsorship of the recent Pick & Paddle event in Salcombe, educating primary school aged children on the importance of being environmentally mindful and responsible. He expanded,
“We need to teach children at the earliest possible age that caring for our planet if not a boring obligation but is a positive necessity. We need to get to the point in our society where littering is stigmatised and frowned upon and where people have the confidence and support from others to call people on it when they see it being done. Unfortunately, we still live in a ‘throwaway culture’ where people don’t consider the full product journey of what happens with their waste when it has been disposed of. The message is slowly getting through though. Since Blue Planet 2, we have noticed lots of initiatives popping up all over the place where, effectively, people feel they have the permission to start making a difference. Whether it is Salcombe Against Plastic, your Grow Green initiative or one of the variety of beach cleans locally, it feels like there is a momentum building.”.
Elliott also communicated his feeling that the recent trend to ban plastic straws is just the tip of the iceberg. In the case of some national/global chains, he went as far as to say that it comes off like a cheap PR stunt and isn’t giving the broader issues the respect and attention that they deserve.
He was also crystal clear in saying that he isn’t against all plastics, just the ones that are created for a single (and usually short-term) use. In his opinion, the real areas of opportunity in the world of plastics are in the faster disposal, safer destruction and broader recycling of the material. I found it interesting to look at the issue of plastic use from a different angle than I ever had done before.
Elliott is also thinking of as many fresh ideas as possible for the education around (and applications of) plastics. For example, at Kingsbridge Rugby Club, The Plastic Company are sponsoring a reusable plastic cup scheme. With their company logo on the side, The Plastic Company provide the cups (all made out of 100% recycled plastic, of course) and punters pay a £1 deposit, which they get back when they return the cup. A simple, effective way of reducing unnecessary plastic pint receptacles. And just think about how much beer gets drunk at a rugby club! That one change alone, if adopted in every rugby club in the UK, would make a real impact on the amount of single use plastics being used nationally.
The Plastic Company must be doing something right as they are growing fast, to the point that they have outgrown their premises and are on the hunt for new ones, anywhere between Plymouth and Exeter. In fact, such are their growth needs that they are looking to find premises almost ten times the size of their current ones. They need to allow space for more staff, have a large yard for processing deliveries and also two separate manufacturing facilities (one for The Plastic Company and one for PAHS).
Citing Lord Alan Sugar and his show The Apprentice as a real inspiration from his upbringing, I see no reason why Elliott can’t become hugely successful. If he continues on the same trajectory that he is currently on, he has a bright future indeed, as does The Plastic Company.