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Can waste from beauty salons be recycled?

Often when we go to a beauty salon to relax and to look and feel good, we do not realize the impact it will have on our environment. Most of the wastes that are generated from different services of a beauty salon directly goes to the landfill as 70% of salon professionals are unaware of the recycling options of various products and the environmental impacts of the waste. According to some studies, waste from salons account for almost 400 million tons of waste per year, out of which 150 million reaches landfills. So, what are these wastes that are generated from a salon?

Salon waste

Waste from salons are produced from the tools and materials that are used for hair styling and other beauty treatments. These include cotton wools, plastic shampoo bottles, foils, color tubes, towels, tissues, sharps and lots of imperishable waste products. The table below shows a list of types of waste materials with examples:

Waste materialsExamples
MetalsUsed color tubes and foils
PlasticsProduct lids and containers, rigid plastics, beverage bottles, lids of color tubes
PaperMagazines, newspapers, paper packaging, cardboard, coffee cups, paper towels
HairHuman hair (Processed and virgin)
Break room wasteCoffee capsules, straws, snack packets, candy wrappers, disinfecting wipes
Personal protective equipmentDisposable gloves, face masks, disposable garments, shower caps
Excess colorHair color, toner and lightener

These wastes can be divided into three categories:

General waste

General salon waste example- Waste hair
waste hair from salons @

These include anything that is produced from the salons and are not infectious or hazardous (e.g. Plastics, paper trash, hair, tubes, aluminum foils, everyday garbage, etc.).

Hazardous waste

Hazardous salon waste example- Used cosmetic bottles
Used cosmetic bottles @

These include wastes that are hazardous or toxic to the environment (e.g. dye, bleach, hair sprays, nail paint, nail paint remover, chemicals from hair color, hair treatments and shampoos, etc).

Clinical waste

Clinical salon waste-Disposable masks, gloves,etc.
Disposable masks, gloves, tissues and garments @

These include wastes that are sharp and/or potentially infectious (e.g. Wax strips, gloves, cotton buds, razors, used masks, needles, disposable garments or anything that contains bodily fluids).

Recycling waste

According to Green circle salon’s first circle of impact report, salon industry in the US and Canada generates 877 pounds (397 kg) of waste per minute. The industry throws away over 42,000 pounds of excess hair color, 63,000 pounds of hair and 110,000 pounds of metal every day. Most of the wastes from salons can be recycled, including our very own hair.

Let’s discuss the potential of human hair.


Hair is usually collected in plastic bags before dumping. Due to lack of oxygen these plastic bags in landfills produces methane gas; one of the greenhouses gases responsible for climate change. Also when these plastic bags are burned it emit dangerous chemicals and gases. As hair contains excess nutrients, dumped hair from landfills, waste streams, etc., can contaminate nearby water bodies, thus causing water pollution.

Good news is hair can be recycled and made into useful products. One can also donate excess hair for making wigs. Some of the ways recycled hair can be used are:

Eco-friendly fertilizer

As hair contains almost 16% nitrogen (as compared to 0.2-0.3% in cow dungs), it can be used as fertilizer.

Pest control

It can be used for pest control as ‘Hair Mats’ that can keep animals like rabbits and deer and also some insects away from feeding on crops.


Recycled hair can also be used in pharmaceutical industries as it contains many nutrients.

Oil spill control

Recycled hair used to control oil spill
Hair used to control oil spill of 2021, off the coast of Northern Ireland @

Hair mats can be used to control oil spillage as hair has high affinity for oil and can absorb oil easily. One disadvantage with this is oil soaked hair booms cannot be recycled and often burned, thus causing pollution.

Water purification

Hair can be used for water purification as it can absorb many chemicals found in water.


Hair can be used in construction of houses. Because of its properties like strength and thermal insulation, it can be mixed with clay to plaster houses.


Hair is also used to make various kinds of fabrics for clothing and also used to stuff mattresses, toys and items; due to its elasticity and thermal insulation properties.

Besides these hair is also used to make makeup brushes and other accessories.

Make-up brushes made from recycled hair
Makeup brushes made from recycled hair @

Other recyclable items

The other recyclable items are aluminum foils, cans, tubes, plastic bottles, paper, etc.

Salon industry heavily rely on aluminum foils for different services which can be recycled also. Recyclable aluminum takes only 5% of the energy (compared to plastics which require 30% energy) needed to produce new aluminum. It can be recycled and re-processed into foils, cans and wrappings.

Before sending plastic bottles for recycling one should checked if there is any hazardous residues left. It should be cleaned properly before recycling. Plastics can be recycled into new bottles, sheets etc.

Paper can be recycled and turned into pulp, which can be used to make more eco friendly products.

How salons should handle waste?

Segregation of salon waste
Segregation of salon waste @

Salons should segregate their waste and dispose the items in separate waste bins for different types of wastes (general, hazardous and clinical). The recyclable items should be kept separately from the garbage.

The hazardous waste should be stored and treated properly before disposing. The salon staffs should be trained to handle these waste properly. Eco friendly products should be used for beauty treatments.

The clinical waste should be disposed of properly so that it can be used to make renewable energy.

Apart from these it is very important to minimize the waste. Products should not be used in excess in order to reduce waste. Also reusable items should be used as much as possible.

Initiatives to handle waste

Nowadays hairdressers are becoming conscious about waste generated by the salons and are taking active steps to make fair use of the wastes to promote circular economy.

Some of the organizations like Green Salon Collective , Coiffeurs Justes, Sustainable Salons, Salon Sustainability , Waste Free Systems, SalonCycle, Dung Dung, GLO, etc; founded by a group of hairdressers and environmentalists ; are taking active steps in turning salon waste into valuable products , thus promoting circular economy in the salon industry.

Few salons like Salon Sassafras in Amsterdam, Barhairink Salon in Islington, 365 studio in Ukraine, etc, are turning their business into sustainable ones by handling their waste properly.

The lists above are only a few examples of the initiatives taken. There are many other such initiatives throughout the world.


Salon industry generates tremendous amount of wastes, most of which can be recycled. Despite its potential, people are not much aware of recycling of hair. Salon professionals should be made aware of the harmful effects of wastes on the environment and about recycling and reusing of items. Eco friendly beauty products should be used for beauty treatments. Salons should take help of recycling services to handle their waste, in order to minimize the amount of waste that reaches the landfill.

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