How to minimise plastic waste in your salon



Your salon probably has a substantial plastic footprint. To provide your services you need shampoo, conditioner, bleach, peroxides, treatments and many other industry-specific products that tend to come in plastic bottles. You 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. Your 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. Read our article The problem with plastic to understand why. In this article, you will learn about how your business can minimise the amount of plastic waste you generate to begin with.


Let’s start by looking at a couple alternative materials: glass and paper.


Glass. Beauty brands (e.g. Nivea) have in the past 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. The first two minutes of the video below will give you an idea of how glass is made:


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. But 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.


TAKE AWAY: 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.


Paper. 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.


Have a look at our article, Why is it important to recycle paper? Also, read the MeethefiveRs article, Plastic is not the enemy and paper is not necessarily the solution.


Bulk. Another approach to reducing the need for plastic packing 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!


Refills. There are many refills schemes now available around the world and these eliminate the need for single use plastic. The UK in particular is absolutely brimming with them. 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.


One good example in the salon 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. Visit their website and follow them on Instagram.


Another brand that is championing this is OWAY (as in “Organic Way”) which has refills stations in all of their participating salons including:



Recycling. Last but not least we come to recycling and the first point to be made here is that it is most important to start with trying to reduce and reuse plastic consumption 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). To learn more about each of the seven plastic types, read the Waste 4 Change article, 7 Types of Plastic that You Need to Know.

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. Click on any of the items below to learn what households or businesses can do with them.


Plastic bags Plastic bottles Plastic coat hangers Plastic coffee pods & capsules Plastic cotton buds Plastic disposable cutleryPlastic drinks bottles Plastic film & carrier bags Plastic gift & toy packaging Plastic milk bottles Plastic packaging (food) Plastic plant pots Plastic plates & bowls Plastic PVC packagingPlastic shampoo bottles Plastic sticky tape Plastic straws Plastic toys Plastic tubes Plastic tubs & trays Plastic yoghurt pots Plastics (compostable)


Green Salon Collective has even more solutions for your salon. Be sure to read our article, Plastic waste: Circular disposal solutions.


This article was written for Green Salon Collective by MeetthefiveRs



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


RE-COMB website


Singular Mars website


First Mile website


Recycle Now website


Bleach London website


OWAY website



Cover photo by Yifan Zhang on Unsplash