Hairdresser Mark Chestnutt dreaded seeing just how much waste was filling his salon's rubbish skip each week.

“At home we were recycling as much as possible and it just wasn’t happening at the shop,” he said. “The amount of waste that comes from a business like this is so much more than a household.

“I had a huge sense of guilt that I could be doing more but wasn’t.”

Determined to make some sort of difference, Mr Chestnutt and business co-owner Elise Knight were thrilled to discover a hairdressing-specific resource recovery service.

“We usually generate between 10 and 20 bags of waste from the salon each week,” he said.

“The most waste in hairdressing is the foil and so much of that just goes into landfill.

“So when we heard about Sustainable Salons Australia (SSA) we were straight on it.”

SSA collects hair, paper, plastics, metals including aluminium foil, chemicals, razors and hairdressing tools from salons around the country.

“Aluminium is infinitely recyclable,” SSA co-founder Paul Frasca said.

“So we divert all of a salon’s metals including foil, aluminium colour tubes, canisters and product packaging from landfill back into recycled resources.”

Mr Frasca said the service had attracted more than 450 member salons nationwide.

How hair can help in an oil spill

“All that hair is a reusable resource too,” Mr Chestnutt said.

Clippings from SSA member salons are stuffed into sausage-like stockings to create hair booms.

The booms have been designed to help clean up oil spills along the Australian coast.

“It’s a great use for the hair because it works well to soak up oil,” Ms Knight said.

Ponytails are collected to make wigs for the Variety Children’s Foundation and money from recycling foils is donated to food recovery organisation Oz Harvest.

Chemical waste is collected too, mixed with recycled water and used for manufacturing instead of going into drains and contaminating oceans.

Ms Knight said salons registered with SSA charged each client a $2 “green fee” with each hair appointment.

“That allows us to pay SSA to collect all of our waste for recycling at their plant in Sydney,” she said.

“We also collect points that allows us to order biodegradable products at no extra cost.”

Mr Chestnutt said the salon experienced a huge growth in business after making sustainability a priority.

“As soon as we told people about what we were doing on social media, we started getting phone calls from people who wanted to be part of it,” he said.

“Our gloves are a biodegradable variety and take five years to break down instead of upwards of 120 years like some of the other options available on the market.”

Ms Knight said it felt good to make small changes that made a big difference.

“We now use towels made of bamboo fibres that will break down as well,” she said.

“It means we’re not washing and drying because they’re one use and then they break down.

“We also use a biodegradable foil that when it hits organic matter it takes 140 days to break down completely.”


This article by Hannah Walmsley. For more articles by this author, click here.