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We currently send the majority of salon hair waste to our composting partner and so far we have only received positive feedback from them. Commercial composting is heavily regulated and batches of the final product are regularly sent to approved labs for testing. It is clear that composting is a great and safe outcome for hair. But as we are set to serve more and more salons in the coming years, we expect to deal with a lot more hair. (A lot!) It is therefore imperative that we continually monitor this new feedstock, including through additional testing, and at the same time explore new opportunities to exploit this nitrogen-rich material for agriculture.
We have talked a lot about the benefits of adding hair to your potted plants but now we are putting it to the test! Using hair felt samples produced by our very own felting machine, we are testing the effectiveness of what we call potting felt for retaining water at the base of potted baby monstera plants. We are also testing the potting felt as a top layer for water retention and deterring pests. To make sure our data is robust, we have called on gardening-enthusiast Green Libertine, Ryan Crawford from Crawford Hair in Milton Keynes, to replicate the experiment.
We are working with Professor Baden on a 12 month study to explore ways to reduce individual carbon and water footprints related to haircare routines. In particular, we will be looking at the effectiveness of mirror talkers - small messages on hairdresser mirrors - for engaging clients in conversations around sustainable haircare.
We have witnessed rising uncertainty and concern in the hair and beauty industry with disposable towels becoming a recurring question both during our accreditation process as well as in everyday conversations with our members. Consequently, we have decided to conduct an objective study comparing the environmental (and financial) costs of disposable and reusable salon towels.
GSC accepts salon plastic waste for recycling but currently this is being sent to our recycling partners at First Mile where it is processed and made into new products. We are now looking to give local recycling businesses the opportunity to use some of that plastic to create products for the hair and beauty industry. This will be a more authentic circular economy for plastics for our industry. Our 12 month CE4P campaign will be built on GSC member ideas and designs which we will then bring to local Precious Plastic workspaces to prototype. Promising designs and products will then be brought to market with profits going to member-selected charities.
Our very first R&D partner is an expert at hair rope making. She has been working with hair as a material for over seven years and it has been her key design focus at Studio Sanne Visser. We are collaborating with her to bring her craft to GSC members. We are creating a truly unique workshop where hairdressers try their hands at making hair rope using Sanne's own creation: Rope Machine 2.0 (pictured; credit Gabriela Gesheva). Sanne will then guide hairdressers to then fashion their hair rope into hanging planters. We hope for this experience to inspire people to consider human hair waste not as rubbish but as a useful and perhaps aesthetically pleasing material.
Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the module Sustainable Resource Management have been given an assignment to consider new ways to create a circular economy within the hair and beauty industry. Students were given a presentation with all relevant background information about current capabilities and limitations as well as the opportunity to meet with and bring their questions to our head of R&D, Stephanie. Noteworthy and exceptional submissions will form the basis of an official recommendation to GSC to trial new services or to improve current ones.
We are collaborating with London-based regenerative biomanufacturer, Biohm, on an exploratory study to trial human hair waste in both their "orb" and "mycelium" processes to produce alternative wood-based sheets and other 3D objects. We are both keen to see whatever product(s) we co-create to be that for the hair and beauty industry.
[Photo: Mycelium panel. Credit: BIOHM]
We are supporting Deborah and Hadin, leading architects at Pareid Architecture and lecturers at the Bartlett School of Architecture, as they explore new applications of hair in architecture and building materials. Deborah and Hadin have experience working with hair felt and have previously created architectural structures using this material. A notable example of this was their "Hairy Pavilion" installation (pictured) at Bangkok Design Week in 2019.
Our work with Sanne Visser has inspired us to explore ways to upscale the use of hair in yarn and rope. We are working with Natural Fibre Co to do exactly that. So far we have tested yarns that are comprised of 40% human hair and 60% wool and is spun to a chunky, rope-like thickness. All wool sourced for this project is undervalued and destined for composting and at the same time meets the highest ethical standards. The resulting yarn is soft, durable and beautiful but we are still trialing the technique and considering options for bringing this material to market.
[Photo credit: Natural Fibre Co.]