While a trip to the hair salon may be for cosmetic purposes, the reality of those beauty services comes at an environmental cost, with millions of pounds of waste each year. To help combat the issue, an environmental organization of about 4,000 participating hair salons across the U.S. and Canada is working to address the industry’s massive carbon footprint through recycling.
“I think that a lot of clients don’t realize how much waste a salon produces,” Jennifer Barber, brand manager for Bob Steele Salons in Atlanta, Georgia, told CBS Mornings’ Dana Jacobson.
According to the national environmental group Green Circle Salons, the beauty industry throws out around 877 pounds of waste each minute, which totals to about half a million pounds every day.
In the last year, Bob Steele Salons joined a growing group of salons around the country when it became certified sustainable, meaning the establishment now recycles 95% of its waste. As part of Green Circle, the Atlanta salon fills boxes with waste like foil, hair clippings and hair chemical dyes before shipping them off to the organization’s Illinois facility.
“We felt it was the right thing to do to support our community and be a leader and make sure that we’re doing what’s right to lower our carbon footprint,” Barber said.
While at the recycling plant, professionals recycle materials like plastic and hair into new usable forms.
Shane Price, founder and CEO of Green Circle Salons, told Jacobson that the organization has explored different recycling possibilities with hair waste, such as using it to make recycling bins for salons and even turning it into an amino acid soup to be used as a bio-stimulant for agriculture.
The group collaborates with partners to separate chemicals from water in hair dyes, which can later be neutralized into salt and water before going back safely into the wastewater grid. And the stripped oil layer from dyes can later be used to fuel the system that powers the entire process.
“Whether it’s masks, or capes or gowns, all of this is just plastic that can be shredded and can be re-pelletized into pellets, plastic beads and turned into new PPE and new products that, you know, we need to use,” Price said.
The environmental steps taken by thousands of salons nationwide has had an impact on clientele.
Bob Steele Salons customer Lauren Ramsey said knowing that the salon she regulars is certified sustainable “absolutely” matters to her.
“I’ve been a customer here for about 15 years, so it’s one of the best things about this place,” Ramsey told Jacobson. I think every company should make efforts to be environmentally friendly and green.”