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Canadian Company Sees The Beauty In Reducing Salon Waste

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If you wonder what happens to your discarded hair after getting a haircut, the answer is simple: most of it winds up in a landfill. According to data from Green Circle Salons, about 63,000 pounds of hair goes to waste daily, where it emits greenhouse gasses. Sending it to the landfill keeps hair from being recycled, where it could be used in everything from composting and gardening to wigs, art, and regenerative biomanufacturing.

Green Circle, a Toronto-based provider of sustainability solutions to the beauty industry, gathered the data while putting together its first Circle of Impact Report. Released in April, it examines two issues: the environmental impact of salon waste and salon professionals’ attitudes toward the issue.

Photo Courtesy Green Circle Salons

According to Green Circle’s research, the salon industry in the U.S. and Canada generates 877 pounds of waste per minute. The largest contributors are:

  • Hair Color: More than 42,000 pounds of surplus hair color, lightener, and toner is thrown away daily.
  • Hair Clippings: About 63,000 pounds of hair waste is tossed out every day.
  • Metal: North American salons discard of 110,000 pounds of metal daily, more than half the weight of a commercial airplane. 

The vast majority of hair salon waste in North America — about 87% — ends up in the landfill, according to Shane Price, Green Circle Salons founder and CEO. The only exceptions are salons that use a municipal recycling program or have trash managed by a private recycler. In both cases, general recyclers typically only accept paper, plastic, and glass.

“The biggest need today is for programs that ensure all waste from salons is recovered and recycled,” Price told The Business Download in an email.

Photo Courtesy Green Circle Salons

Green Circle provides one of those programs by helping salons and spas reduce their environmental impact. The Certified B Corp offers a comprehensive, customizable waste management solution designed to divert up to 95% of beauty garbage from landfills. Its 16,000 clients — what it refers to as “waste warriors” — have combined to keep nearly 10 million pounds of beauty trash out of landfills and waterways.

Price founded Green Circle Salons in 2009 after witnessing firsthand the beauty industry’s waste challenges. He put his science background to work coming up with solutions. Today, those methods empower salons to offset emissions and recover up to 95% of their beauty trash, including previously unrecoverable and hard-to-recycle items such as hair clippings, foils, excess hair color, aerosol cans, and color tubes.

Photo Courtesy Green Circle Salons

The company’s mission is to help salons and spas “be green, build revenue, gain clients, and save money in a way that’s ethical and simple.” It practices what it preaches by ensuring that its own operations and practices are carbon-neutral and sustainable. The firm has also achieved a Zero Waste to Landfill Certification.

One of Green Circle’s biggest priorities is educating the industry on sustainability and waste-reduction options.

“Many salon professionals are not aware of the environmental impact of their practices or the recycling streams available to them,” Price said. “This may be due to a lack of education and information on the subject. A majority of salon professionals don’t even know that sustainability programs exist.”

One way Green Circle Salons addresses the problem is by providing in-salon educational materials and certificates to help salons educate guests and promote their sustainability platform to colleagues, family, and friends. The company also partners with manufacturers and distributors of salon products to build awareness for its program with their salon customers.

The next challenge is convincing salons to implement sustainability practices. A good place to start is by reducing the amount of water and energy they use.

Photo Courtesy Green Circle Salons

“Salons are water- and energy-intensive businesses, so it is important that salons explore opportunities to reduce their consumption in these two areas,” Price said. “Low flow faucets, shower heads, and toilets, as well as LEDs, have come a long way to support the specific needs of a salon.”

To help salons overcome another big challenge — paying for sustainability programs — Green Circle offers its funding mechanism and marketing materials to help salons amplify their green initiatives.

The company takes a multi-tiered approach to building its business, including meeting with salons directly, spreading the word at industry events, networking with industry manufacturers, and incentivizing salons to refer other salons.

Meanwhile, it continues to innovate by developing new products, waste stream diversions, services, and carbon-offsetting certifications.

“Our primary strategy for growth is engaging with salon owners and stylists to educate them on the problem and that there is a solution that addresses the problem head-on and allows them to make a difference,” Price said. 


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