Hairdressers hold a cherished place in the nation, as we were sorely reminded in March when they were forced to close alongside a rake of other businesses. Their reopening in July was one of the few positive news stories of the last few months. “We’ve never felt so in demand,” joked the stylist in my local hairdressers, Zero One in Greystones. It was great, on my return visit, to also hear of a new green initiative that has been adopted by the salon.
We don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes in many businesses, particularly when it comes to environmental efforts such as recycling and waste. And with hairdressing, there’s plenty of ugly stuff that we don’t see from the comfort of the salon chair: all those dyeing chemicals, for example, that are washed down the sink; the highlight foils; the plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles; the hairsprays and various other products – and then there’s all that water and energy use.
The Green Salon Collective, started earlier this year, is a UK and Ireland initiative and part of a global effort to make the hairdressing industry more sustainable. Salons can register or opt for pay-as-you-go – all of which goes to charity – to receive reusable bins for hair, metals and plastics which are then collected and sent to a depot in Belfast for recycling or waste recovery.
“The idea is to avoid the landfill as much as possible,” says one of the founders Fry Taylor. In the UK, an estimated 1 per cent of salons recycle hair foil. And because many items are contaminated – such as colour tubes and hairspray cans – they are not usually accepted for recycling. Likewise, much of hair clippings – which are too short to make into wigs – often end up in landfill.
The Green Salon Collective recycles hair clippings into mats and hair booms, which are tightly packed tubes of hair in cotton tubes that are used to prevent the spread of oil in seawater. Recently, they saved 360kg of metals going into landfill with material collected from 19 salons, over the space of six weeks. The group also has plans to remake used plastics into colour bowls, combs and other items for salons and they are working on a PPE recovery system for masks and gloves used in hair salons.
“It’s a simple and affordable system,” says Taylor, who adds that businesses are encouraged to pass on the costs to customers as a €1/€2 “green fee”. Salons who sign up also receive a “Green Bible” guide with tips on how to run a sustainable, ethical business. “It’s a full package of ideas,” he adds. There’s about 20 Irish hairdressers signed up to the collective so far – that’s according to their salon locator, which you can check on their website.