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How to reduce, reassess and responsibly dispose of chemical waste in your salon
Your salon probably handles a lot of chemicals for colouring, lightening and treating hair. However, not all of what you squeeze from a tube makes it to your clients’ head! It’s likely that much of your excess chemicals end up with the rest of your general waste, but this can put unnecessary pressure on landfill sites - plus, liquid waste shouldn’t be going to landfill anyway. It might also be the case that excess chemical waste gets washed down your salon drains, however there are lots of reasons that you shouldn’t be washing chemicals down the drain!
Over time, the colour and bleach leach toxins that form part of leachate. Leachate is the liquid formed when waste breaks down in the landfill and water filters through that waste. This liquid is highly toxic and can pollute our soil and groundwater, and become an environmental hazard for years.
Salon chemicals can be incredibly problematic for both people and the environment so it is important to make sure it gets disposed of properly. Our article Chemicals: Human and Planetary Health to understand why.
Stop the waste before it gets wasted by using software like Precision Colour…
Before looking for ethical ways to dispose of your salon’s chemicals, it may be a good idea to consider whether there is anything your team can do to minimise what is wasted to begin with. Two examples to help you are Vish and Precision Colour who are dedicated to tackling chemical waste from the start.
Both brands have developed software for salons to use which accurately tracks colour usage. It’s a clever management system where teams can easily predict actual usage from previous visits to determine actual needs for future treatments. The result is a savings for the salon not just in terms of reducing product costs but also costs related to disposal.
Victoria Tarrant from Precision Colour says that UK salons typically waste 20% of their mixed colour. By using the weighing scales and software, you can make sure that 20% isn’t mixed up and wasted - saving you money and reducing the amount of chemicals going down the drain! Did we mention that Green Salon Collective members get two months for free? Click here to book a free ten min demo.
Dispose of your chemicals responsibly…
Green Salon Collective has a solution for any chemicals that are left over, that stops them from going into landfill or down the drain. Our Waste to Energy service is zero to landfill, chemicals (and other non-recyclable waste!) is burnt to generate energy for the national grid. Learn more and set up your service here, it’s another step to making your salon more sustainable!
Avoiding chemicals from the get go…
A good industry-specific explainer video for the top five chemicals to avoid in salons is this one below:
Note: Rebecca from the video lists ammonia as an ingredient to avoid but products often replace this for monoethanolamine which is just as harmful to human health. In fact, the latter has also been shown to be more damaging to hair than the ammonia.
Choosing better brands…
Some brands claim to use a percentage of natural or organic ingredients but when you're literally mixing those with toxic chemicals, you may (rightly) think to yourself, What’s the point? To us it seems like making a coffee with organic coffee beans but then using non organic milk or milk alternative. Would it still be an organic coffee?
Our advice is to not be fooled into thinking something is “natural” even when the company is advertising it as 99% naturally-derived. That last one percent can still include any number of toxic ingredients that can still cause serious harm even at low doses.
Make sure to wear PPE…
Personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t just for pandemics. When using toxic chemicals make sure to protect yourself. This is especially important for stylists who come into repeated contact with chemicals. As we can’t be held liable for the health and safety of your salon’s personnel, it is up to you to do your own research to decide which PPE will fulfil your needs.
Plus, any PPE contaminated with chemicals can go in your general waste to energy service, to make sure that it's not going to landfill.
Fun fact: In Australia’s state, New South Wales, stylists must wear a face mask, goggles, gloves and an apron to mix and apply a hair colour. It is the law!
We hope that this helps you reassess your chemical waste, before it gets wasted! By reducing waste, re-assessing which chemicals you use in your salon and disposing of any chemical waste that your salon does generate responsibly.
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This article was written for Green Salon Collective by MeetthefiveRs and edited by Jess Rigg
References and further reading
Green Salon Collective’s article, Waste to energy
Womansvoices.org article, Toxic chemicals in salon products: What salon workers need to know
Simply Organic Beauty’s video, 5 harmful chemicals to avoid in hair salons
The Guardian’s article, Hairdressers of the world unite against hidden dangers of the salon
Journal of Cosmetic Science article, Comparison of damage to human hair fibers caused by monoethanolamine- and ammonia-based hair colorants
Cover photo by Valeriia Kogan on Unsplash