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Biodegradable vs Compostable: Being an Eco-Friendly Salon
Through our towel composting service, we’ve discovered that there’s a lot of confusion around biodegradability, compostability and whether their salon towels are actually a sustainable option.
We compost both cut hair waste and disposable cellulose-based salon towels as a solution for hair salon waste, and to help produce nutrient-rich compost for British Agriculture. We currently only accept two towel brands, Easydry and Scrummi as both of those have improved their certified compostability (learn more about this service here). But what does that actually mean? Keep reading to get the lowdown!
Being biodegradable simply means that something will degrade into smaller pieces through natural processes. This could take a few months or hundreds of years and whilst an apple can biodegrade, so can some types of plastic. Just because a material can biodegrade doesn’t mean it’s compostable or sustainable - it can be a misleading term so make sure to investigate further!
Compostability applies to materials that have been tried, tested & certified to break down into smaller pieces that don’t harm the environment. There are two different types of compostability, one is home and the other is industrial. Home composting means that things will break down in your back garden compost in a few weeks to several months. Industrial composting is a more controlled process, with heat and pH closely monitored.
What about in Landfill?
As landfills have very little air and light, things typically take much longer to decompose, if they break down at all. Even natural produce like a banana peel won’t degrade like it would in a compost heap. On top of the delayed breakdown, materials can become hazardous when degrading in landfills as they generate methane, which is a particularly potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
When we combine organic waste, no oxygen and anaerobic bacteria we get an output of Greenhouse Gases (like CO2 and methane), but when we compost organic material and add oxygen and aerobic bacteria, we get a useful end product of nutrient rich compost! In 2019, it’s estimated that the UK sent 6.6 million tonnes of organic waste to landfill, which could all have been composted for British agriculture!
Make sure your hair and salon towels aren’t part of the useful materials being sent to landfill that could be composted! Even if your disposable salon towels are certified compostable or marketed as biodegradable, that doesn’t mean they will decompose in landfill! They could stick around for hundreds of years…and some more years.