Unfortunately, like most businesses, your hairdressing salon probably has a large plastic footprint! From shampoo and conditioner bottles to bleach, peroxides and other treatments that typically come in plastic bottles. Your salon may have also become the dumping ground for takeaway cups (with plastic lids), personal protective equipment (PPE) and many other random plastic bits and bobs. All of this ensures that your hairdressing salon brings in, as well as disposes of, a steady flow of plastic which, as you well know, you often pay for on both ends.
Plastic is a particularly tricky material and so can be incredibly problematic for both people and the environment. It is important to make sure it gets recycled or disposed of properly. In this article, we're giving you our top tips for reducing plastic waste in your hairdressing business, so that you can reduce your salon's environmental footprint.
Let’s start by looking at a couple alternative materials: glass and paper.
In the past, beauty brands (like Nivea) have sat down and conducted what is called a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the packaging for their products. They often came to the same conclusion: plastic is better. The reason is partly to do with the amount of energy that is required to produce glass which is much higher than that for plastic.
Although plastic is typically made from fossil fuels such as petroleum, the (high!) energy demands required for manufacturing glass are most often being met by fossil fuels such as natural gas. And let’s not even get into the pollutants and toxic heavy metals that are emitted from the process!
The reason glass is favoured in LCAs is also partly due to the weight of these materials. The fact that glass is significantly heavier than plastic means that transporting it requires much more fuel.
However, glass, of course, isn’t all bad. Recycled glass uses less energy and oil for its production than virgin, also releasing less pollutants. And the material, unlike plastic and paper, can be infinitely recycled without impacting on quality!
Overall, glass is not always the better option. Products that are housed in recycled glass bottles that are then recycled after use are an acceptable alternative.
For things like bags, paper is not always better. Again, the resource footprint for paper compared to plastic is much higher. Global paper production is a large driver for deforestation so it is incredibly important to look for labels such as FSC.
Want to learn more about Why is it important to recycle paper? Head to our article to get the answers.
Buying in Bulk...
Another approach to reducing the need for plastic in your hairdressing business is by buying in bulk. Products that come in larger quantities actually reduce the packaging to product ratio. In other words, a 10L container of product uses less plastic (for packaging) than the same amount of product contained within 40 250mL bottles. As a bonus, bulk is often cheaper!
There are many refills schemes now available around the world and these eliminate the need for single use plastic! You can find refills for all sorts of products these days from dry food, cleaning products and, you guess right, beauty products. Often these are sold in dedicated zero waste or refills shops but more and more businesses have refill stations to augment their offerings, and your salon could too! Not only can you reduce your business' plastic waste, but you could also have a positive impact on your clients' plastic footprint.
One good example of refills working in the hairdressing industry is Bleach London, known for its almost cult-like following, bright colours and cruelty-free product range. Last year, they launched refills stations across all locations to help combat plastic pollution! Another brand that is championing this is OWAY (as in “Organic Way”) which has refills stations in all of their participating salons.
Last but not least, we come to recycling! The first point to be made here is that it is most important to start with trying to reduce and reuse plastic before we look to find ways to recycle it. That said, purchasing products made with recycled plastic is not a bad thing, especially when these are then recycled again. Or better yet used again!
Like we already said, plastic is a minefield. Some (e.g. HDPE) are highly recyclable and have high recovery rates. Others (e.g. LDPE) are recyclable but collection is spotty and recovery rates are lower. Some can be toxic to human health (e.g. PVC). Yet others are a nightmare to collect, transport and recycle (e.g. bubble wrap).
Recycle Now is a tool for understanding how to recycle items by material and location. This is especially useful for plastics as there are so many types and therefore also many challenges with recycling! Whilst this is only for household plastic waste, it can help give you a better understanding of plastic recycling.
However, we can help you to recycle plastic hairdressing salon waste too! From product bottles to disposable coffee cup lids, any clean recyclable plastics can be collected by our logistical partners and recycled alongside your paper and card waste. Starting at £110 for a year of weekly waste collections, you can take one step further towards making your hairdressing salon 100% zero to landfill!
This article was written for Green Salon Collective by MeetthefiveRs
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References and further reading
MeetthefiveRs’ article, Plastic is not the enemy and paper is not necessarily the solution
Floyd Glass & Window’s YouTube video, How glass is made
The Guardian article, War on plastic waste faces setback as cost of recycled material soars
The BBC article, Plastic or paper: Which bag is greener?
Stanford University’s article, Frequently Asked Questions: Benefits of Recycling
Glass Packaging Institute’s article, Glass Recycling Facts
Waste 4 Change’s article, 7 Types of plastic that you need to know
Pebble Magazine’s article, Plastic Free Shopping: 102 Of The UK's Best Zero Waste Stores
Singular Mars website
First Mile website
Recycle Now website
Bleach London website
Cover photo by Yifan Zhang on Unsplash