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Waste Warriors: Green Circle Salons "Cleaning Up" Professional Beauty

Published April 11, 2023
Published April 11, 2023
Maksim Chernishev via Unsplash

Despite the focus on sustainability across the beauty industry, the salons have been slower to change their ways. The salon industry in the US and Canada generates 877 pounds of waste per minute, which adds up to a staggering 421,000 pounds daily, assuming an eight-hour workday.

"When most people sit down in a stylist's chair, they're prepping for a relaxing experience that will leave them looking and feeling good. But neither they—nor, often, the salon workers—are thinking about the tremendous impact they have on the environment at that moment. But it's not their fault. There hasn't been much education about the impact, and in the past, there has been a dearth of solutions," said Shane Price, CEO of Green Circle Salons. "Fortunately, this is a problem that can be fixed, which is our mission here at Green Circle."

While momentum is building for salon sustainability, many professionals are simply unaware of the industry’s environmental impacts. Green Circle reported 70% of salon professionals are unaware of clean recycling streams for hair color and the significant impact of hair waste on greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste generated by salons encompasses a range of materials, from standard recyclables like paper and plastic to more specialized beauty items like hair clippings, foils, and excess hair color. When hair breaks down in anaerobic conditions, such as in a garbage bag buried in a landfill, it releases potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. And aluminum, while an infinitely recyclable metal used in salons, is frequently contaminated, leading to rejection by recycling facilities and ultimately ending up in landfills.

Toronto-based Green Circle Salons has 16,000 waste warriors (sustainable beauty professionals) committed to cleaning up the professional channel. The company partners with salons to recycle and repurpose salon-generated materials such as hair, foils, color tubes, and chemicals. Through education and training resources, they help salons across the US and Canada adopt more sustainable practices, reducing their environmental impact by providing customized waste management solutions to divert up to 95% of beauty waste from landfills.

Green Circle Salon’s first Circle of Impact Report quantifies the environmental impact of salon waste.

  • Every single minute, the salon industry in the US and Canada produces 877 pounds of waste, which adds up to a daily total of 421,000 pounds (assuming an eight-hour workday).
  • Every day, 63,000 pounds of hair is needlessly wasted, with the bulk of it ultimately consigned to landfills.
  • Salons in the US and Canada alone discard an astonishing 110,000 pounds of metal each day. This equates to more than half the weight of a commercial airplane.
  • 42,000 pounds of excess hair color is thrown away every day. Hair color, lightener, and toner used in salons leads to monetary loss, but when disposed of and rinsed down the drain, these chemicals can find their way into our water and soil. 
  • 62% of salons now incorporate material recycling, marking a 3% increase from 2020, but 74% have yet to adopt beauty waste recycling services. 
  • 10% of stylists expressed uncertainty about their salon's recycling practices. 
  • Only 14% have ever tried a beauty waste recycling program, and lack of awareness and expense are tied for the top two reasons why 86% haven’t tried it yet.

Momentum is growing for salon sustainability, but there is a tremendous amount of work needed to clean up the professional channel—but it's a journey. not a destination.


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