A chat with Australia’s sustainable merchandise superstar

Climate Style

A chat with Australia’s sustainable merchandise superstar

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Lottie Dalziel of Banish, Australia, marries recycling with long-lasting sustainable products in her effort to achieve zero waste.

Lottie Dalziel, 26, is an Australian journalist, speaker, sustainability expert and entrepreneur committed to finding zero waste solutions. She founded her company Banish in 2018 as a sustainable e-commerce business and education platform. Banish’s line of sustainable goods features beauty, kitchen and cleaning products, teas, oils, soaps, reusable makeup pads and even kids’ paints and crayons. All products are fair trade, paraben- and BPA-free, not tested on animals and shipped without plastic, bubble wrap nor even sticky tape. Lottie was named one of Contiki’s 35 Under 35 Changemakers in 2019.

I spoke with her about what inspired her to start Banish.

What got you interested in reducing waste and finding long-lasting, sustainable products?

I’ve been on this journey of reducing as much waste as possible for a couple of years now. We had our red [garbage] bin down to one small bag a week. That’s amazing, but I kept finding the same stuff in the bin and I was getting frustrated with how hard it is to eliminate these difficult things. Australia has a huge waste problem. We rank 5th highest in the world in generating municipal waste but we’re the 55th largest country. It doesn’t add up. People hear stories about their recycling not being recycled, and they hate that. They really want to do the right thing and can’t see why a wealthy nation isn’t getting this right. I wanted Banish to be part of the waste solution. I started to do my own research and came across Terra Cycle zero waste boxes — an Australian recycling company that takes back difficult items — and thought, let’s try this out because it’s taking that extra step.

What does Terra Cycle take back and how does it tie in with Banish? 

Terra Cycle takes items like old toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers, makeup packaging, shampoo and hairspray bottles, contact lens packs and cases and medical blister packs. We ask customers to box them up and mail them in for recycling.  In return, they get a A$15 voucher for Banish products.

We only launched this program at the end of last year and we’ve already received over a hundred boxes with more than 3,000 pieces of plastic that have been diverted from landfills. We’re at about 75 kilos of rubbish so far. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but you should see the space this waste takes up!

What are Banish’s biggest selling products?

Safety razors are really popular. I’m showing my age here, but I’d never heard of a [long-life] safety razor before. That’s probably one of the biggest products that I see people wanting because they don’t want disposables. And shampoo bars are really popular at the moment. We have also just released reusable baking mats. Baking paper is not recyclable, which a lot of people don’t understand because it’s paper and paper goes in the recycling bin. Sadly, not this paper. 

I encourage people to use up what they have and recycle the packaging first rather than quickly switching to the coolest and newest zero waste alternative.

How much do you depend on social media to get the word out about Banish? 

Social media is huge for us. It’s a real advantage when you operate as an online store and education platform. Over half of what we do is about teaching people how to live more sustainably. I think social media is a really great tool to do that. We’ve actually seen a huge lift in TikTok followers and interest in things like food waste tax, recycling tips and help on the sustainability journey. It can be great for connecting with people. 

I think rather than following brands, people like to follow a person and what they are doing. It makes it more relatable. I’m just a normal person, I’m not perfect. And I don’t have dreadlocks.

Do you see your customer numbers and those using the recycling option growing in Australia? 

Definitely. I think people are starting to really value companies that are legitimately sustainable, that value the planet, because moving to that is a really big win. We see so many companies do things like Pledge for the Planet or donating a percentage of sales to tree planting. I looked into that but for us, the recycling and voucher approach is something that involves our community. It gets people thinking differently. It’s more tangible. 

Do you find running your sustainable business political?

Consumers have the power to create change from the ground up by recycling properly, by purchasing sustainably, by supporting small businesses rather than big corporations. Through these actions we are sending a message. When you go to a supermarket buying the unpackaged vegetables over the packaged, you’re showing the big corporations that the demand is not there for the plastic anymore. So I think we often forget the power we have.

Written by

Blair Palese

Blair Palese is a writer and project manager on a range of climate change projects. In 2009, she cofounded 350.org Australia and was its CEO for 10 years. Previously, she was a communications director for Greenpeace International and Greenpeace USA, head of international public relations for the Body Shop, editor-in-chief of Greenpages magazine, and worked at Washington Monthly and ABC.