How your hair can save the planet
By Claire Poulton

We have all heard of food recovery services and the marvellous work they do recovering exorbitant amounts of food that would otherwise needlessly go to waste. But have you ever heard of a waste repurposing service for your hairdresser?

Sustainable Salons (SS) is the first comprehensive resource recovery service tailored exclusively to the salon industry. Born and bred in Sydney and quickly spreading across the country, and now even in New Zealand. SS describe themselves as a ‘social enterprise that rescue up to 95% of salon resources from landfill and finds repurposing solutions that benefit our planet, all while supporting the community’.

SS collects and repurpose everything from chemicals, metals, paper, plastics, tools, and even hair. All those little bits of hair that would typically be swept up at the end of the day and disposed of are collected by SS and turned into hair booms. Hair booms are sausage-like stockings stuffed with hair which are used to clean up oil spills. Hair naturally absorbs oil making it an ingenious natural solution. SS also collects ponytails to make wigs for the Variety Children’s Foundation.

Although the idea of repurposing hair may seem like a unique one, Paul Frasca, Managing Director and Co-Founder of SS explained it has been around for centuries. In conversation with Miljo, Paul Frasca told us,

“Native Americans used to put hair in clay to build their homes, horse hair was used as an insulator, hair has also been used in foods for over two hundred years. In China, hair is an active ingredient in soy sauce. Germans also used hair as an active ingredient for preserving the life of chocolate. These are all very interesting things and I’m quite the hairy observer you could say and what we’ve really tried to do is take hair to the next level. Our goal is to make hair a resource of the future”.

Frasca went on to say, “We are trying to show that you can actually use hair in multiple platforms.” One of those platforms is turning hair into oil booms.

Hair is surprisingly an incredibly effective tool for containing oil spills. In fact, Frasca states that it is “actually nearly four times more absorbent than any other material to soak up oil.”

It’s so good that the oil can not only be collected but the majority can be reclaimed and placed back into manufacturing.”

Frasca stated that SS has become so successful because it has adopted a holistic approach to its operational practices, one that considers the profit margins of the businesses it works with in the interests of a collaborative, comprehensive and mutually rewarding model.

“SS is not just about recycling it’s about sustainability, it’s about people, planet, profit in one model. We not only provide an amazing recycling solution we also provide a lot of community benefits within our model and we grow the profit of the businesses we work with.”

Frasca acknowledged that although many businesses think sustainability is a money pit and a ceaseless uphill battle with little reward, that is far from the case. In a market where there is a plethora of options, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about where they take their business. Frasca claims that the salons and businesses that are affiliated with Sustainable Salons are able to appeal to the discerning, environmental conscious customer and thereby expand and increase their own business and profit margins.

As Frasca stated “We know most people think sustainability is a negative, they think it’s going to cost money and it’s going to be more expensive, so we say no actually the future is different. What we’ve proven here is people and businesses who join our program quickly see the benefits and see this is the way sustainability should be, it should be about business, saving the planet and their community. We’ve ticked all the boxes.”

When asked what advice Frasca would give to others looking to start a social enterprise, he suggested, “Be the future. There’s so many people that say well everything’s been done how do you think of something new? I say are you crazy everything your looking at in front of you needs to be reinvented into a sustainable business.”