The Turtle Tribe story so far

  • The Turtle Tribe was founded in 2018 by eleven-year-old Ned Heaton on a mission to save the oceans.


    Ned’s a regular Aussie kid who grew up camping on a wild Pacific island beach (Mulgumpin/Moreton Island) every year with his family, and saw first-hand the issue of ocean plastics washing up daily on his favourite beach. They’d spend a day or two every holiday just collecting plastic rubbish, but every year, it was the same or worse.


    They started volunteering with a local charity group, Ocean Crusaders, and after a long day collecting ocean plastics from the mangroves and beaches of Green Island, Thommo, founder of Ocean Crusaders, confessed to Ned, “We could keep collecting plastic off this beach our whole lives Ned, and it’ll just keep coming back, year after year, tide after tide, if we don’t get people to stop throwing away so much plastic.”


    It was a seminal moment for young Ned. He could see the problem, and to a young and innocent mind the solution seemed so simple – just make products that didn’t have to be plastic out of something else that didn’t last so long in the environment.


    Ned’s parents ran a small family business and enrolled him in a business course for kids to encourage his creative spirit. Knowing he wanted to sell plastic-free products, Ned launched his business with a small range of eco products and in his first month turned a $20 investment into $1160. To attract people to his business he chose the easiest thing to ship – a bamboo toothbrush – as a free giveaway, and pledged to give away 1 million free bamboo toothbrushes to help Aussies make the switch away from plastic. Every free toothbrush he gave away attracted over $20 in sales of other products. His business was WORKING!


    An impromptu call to a breakfast radio show to discuss his business brought him to the attention of the organiser of the National Business Sustainability Conference, who just happened to be listening while taking his kids to school. ‘Dad! They shouted from the back seat. You should have that kid at your conference!’ He rang Ned that day and offered him a free spot exhibiting at the conference, alongside some of Australia’s largest corporate players and leading sustainability advocates.


    And long story short, Ned landed his first national supply contract with one of Australia’s largest aged care providers, forming a world-first inter-generational partnership to help reduce plastic waste. Grandparents and grandkids are natural allies, and Ned’s gone on to supply hundreds of residential aged care homes all around the country, and in the process, becoming one of the largest suppliers of bamboo toothbrushes in Australia. He’s grown his market share by growing the market.


    Relatively early in his journey, in 2019 while still 11, Ned entered the global ‘Be the Change’ awards, before discovering you had to be 16 to enter. Pleading with the judges to let him enter “Because I can’t wait five years, and the oceans can’t wait five years” the judges changed the rules to let him enter, and he went on to win the title of global ‘Changemaker of the Year’ for the social impact sector. 


    He’s since gone on to win many awards, including “Best Litter Prevention Program” from the Brisbane City Council, a Queensland Young Achiever Award for Creating Change, Most Impactful Teen Business, and the Australian Teen Entrepreneur of the Year.


    ‘Bamboo is the ultimate renewable resource,’ explains Ned. A bamboo toothbrush works just the same as a plastic one, but biodegrades when you finish with it. His goal is firstly to disrupt the plastic toothbrush market, and ultimately to get plastic toothbrushes banned in Australia, submitting a petition to the Queensland Environment Minister in 2022.  By 2050, scientists predict there’ll be more plastic on the ocean than fish, and Ned’s not waiting for someone else to fix it. “Ocean plastics litter our beaches, kill marine life, pollute our food chain, and contribute to climate change.” Say Ned. “We have to change. We have to throw away less plastic. A bamboo toothbrush serves as a twice-daily reminder to reduce your plastic use in lots of other ways too, so it’s an important ‘catalyst consumable’.”


    In 2022 the business was growing so fast Ned’s parents sold their family business to come and work for him, and help him take it to the next level.


    The Turtle Tribe donates 10% of all profits to Ocean Crusaders to clean plastic off beaches. But Ned knows prevention is the key. “If your bath was overflowing’, says Ned, “Would you reach for a mop, or turn off the tap? I’m committed to turning off the plastic tap, by helping people reduce their plastic waste.”


    While Ned’s still at high school, he still finds time to talk to politicians and marine scientists, speak at various events, and make regular appearances in the media. In 2022 he published an award-winning children’s picture book to educate and inspire other kids to follow in his footsteps, and used it to launch a school education campaign that empowers kids and helps raise funds for their schools by selling bamboo toothbrushes in their local community. 


    Ned’s still waiting to hear back from the environment minister, and is still giving away a million free bamboo toothbrushes. Join Ned on his mission to save the oceans from plastic pollution by visiting today.





In June 2019 Ned was invited to be a guest speaker at theCitySmart/Queensland Government Climate WeekSpeakers Series, where he discussed the latest science on the link between plastic pollution and climate change.