Hair today, recycled tomorrow: St. John's salon cuts waste by 80%

A St. John's salon is doing its part to keep waste out of the landfill by recycling human hair and other materials that usually get thrown in the trash.

Urban Salon recycling hair, tin foil, hair dye and more through Green Circle program

Paul Bateman is the owner of Urban Salon on Elizabeth Avenue in St. John's. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

A St. John's salon is doing its part to keep waste out of the landfill by recycling human hair and other materials that used to get thrown in the trash.

For a small business it just seemed ridiculous.- Paul Bateman

Urban Salon owner Paul Bateman says his business used to produce more than a full garbage bag of trash daily —  mostly human hair, tinfoil, eyeglass protectors and various hair products.

He started thinking about how much waste that was for just one small salon, and wanted to do something about it.

"For a small business it just seemed ridiculous, and the garbage bags were always really light because they were just filled with tinfoil and hair," he said.

Tin foil, used for hair colour treatments, is so commonly used that Urban Salon now produces an 11 pound bag per week to be recycled. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

"Right now we've cut down on the weekly waste in the salon by about 80 per cent."

In order to cut down on all that trash, Bateman signed Urban Salon up for a program called Green Circle Salons, which he heard about through his distributor O'Regan Agencies.

Bins placed around the salon for different materials — one for hair, one for tin foil, another for unused hair dye and one for plastics like shampoo bottles. The program collects, recycles and repurposes those materials, keeping excess chemicals out of waterways.

Bateman said there are seven salons in St. John's that he's aware of that are participating in the program, and to help cover costs of the program there is a $1 surcharge per hour of service — which he said customers don't seem to mind paying.

Recycling hair

Recycling plastic and chemicals is conventional, but what exactly can human hair be used for?

According to Bateman, Green Circle sends the hair off to be used for a variety of purposes, including artificial bedding for animals displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfires, mattresses for refugees and even for soaking up oil in spills, such as the 2010 Gulf of Mexico incident.

Hair sits in one of the Green Circle bins at Urban Salon. It takes the salon about two weeks to fill a full blue bag with hair, that will then be sent off for a variety of uses. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Once the bins are filled, the full bags are sent to Green Circle, which processes the materials to be recycled. Since putting the bins in place, Bateman said staff have even been more cognizant of how much waste they are producing.

"We're keeping 11 pounds of tinfoil out of the landfill just at this salon alone, per week," Bateman said.

"Just looking at the hair colouring in the bucket right now it makes the staff more aware of what we're wasting and how much we overmix. That saves small businesses money, and that's a good thing."

With files from Heather Barrett