Mans hair being cut

Green Salon Collective puts cut hair to good use

You might not think that trimmed, unwanted hair is capable of protecting the planet, but wait until you see what the Green Salon Collective has in mind.

Made from keratin, a durable protein which is also the substance our nails are made from, hair grows at a rate of roughly half an inch each month. Over lockdown, the closure of hairdressers and salons has made our hair grow especially long and unruly. But once cut off, our hair could be put to good use, even being put to use, helping protect the planet.

There’s more to our hair than meets the eye, and the same can be said about the hairdressers who trim it.

A greener way to groom

Looking well-groomed comes at a price, especially when it comes to our hair. Whether it’s the chemical dyes we wash down the sink when colouring our hair, the large quantity of water used to wash it or the items including foils which we throw away, grooming our hair has a definitive impact.

The Green Salon Collective campaign. Photo credit: @MeetthefiveR’s

That’s why the Green Salon Collective is calling for change. Founded by a coalition of environmental experts, hairdressers and eco-campaigners, this organisation describes itself as “the original authority on salon sustainability”, across the UK and Ireland.

Just one per cent of the foil used in hair salons is recycled, despite being made from aluminium foil, one of the most easily-recyclable materials you can buy in the shops. Used foils, metal spray cans and metallic colour tubes and other items are seemingly useless once they’ve carried out their job, but the Green Salon Collective has an effective recycling system for each of these items.

However, the Green Salon Collective doesn’t just have an eye on recycling the everyday items which salons chuck away with little regard. Hair has a role to play in protecting the environment too.

A growing issue

As mentioned, hair is formed from a type of durable protein. While this might not sound like much, this means hair is an organic substance, and that means it is biodegradable. Believe it or not, hair could serve as a useful form of fertiliser, if collected and composted in the proper way. The Green Salon Collective actively accepts hair for recycling, because even seemingly inert keratin has a role to play.

Hair can be offered by the collective to farmers and gardeners, who will be in a position to help break the hair down into the essential nutrients their plants and crops need to thrive. However, the good work doesn’t stop there.
Hair is phenomenally good at absorbing naturally-occurring oils. Using a method devised by an American hairdresser in 1989, the Green Salon Collective takes old hair to make hair booms – tightly-packed pieces of hair, compressed into cotton or nylon tubes, which can be floated onto water.

When placed on water, these hair booms can stop oil spills from spreading by absorbing the oil themselves, protecting the coastlines from this toxic scourge. A salon in Mistley made headlines recently, having put these hair booms into practice. They explained how hair can be donated by being bagged up and sent directly to the Collective, before being put to good work.

That just goes to show how seemingly lifeless inanimate things like hair can have a use beyond the superficial, keeping our coastlines clean and tidy.

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