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Halifax’s beauty industry cleans up its act

A notoriously wasteful industry works to clean up its environmental act

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At this year's Carnival of Beauty, Green Circle Salons and Maritime Beauty teamed up to improve their industry's environmental record.

At this year's Carnival of Beauty, Green Circle Salons and Maritime Beauty teamed up to improve their industry's environmental record.

This year Maritime Beauty’s Carnival of Beauty had all of its usual components: new hair trends, high fashion, and exciting style competitions. But this year the difference was the company’s commitment to making the event environmentally friendly.

“We had a need to change the way we handle our waste,” says Peter Alexander, Maritime Beauty’s general manager.

That notion led to a partnership between Maritime Beauty and Green Circle Salons. Green Circle Salons has been working with salons in other parts of the country.

Maritime geography presents challenges, though. In larger centers, Green Circle trucks go from salon to salon to pick up recyclables but here in the Maritimes, the environmental impact of the trucks driving long distances between cities would have been higher.

The partnership with Maritime Beauty allows member salons across the region to take their waste to one of Maritime Beauty’s 16 locations. The Green Circle trucks cut their carbon footprint by picking up the recyclables from all of the participating salons at these centralized locations.

Teaming up with Maritime Beauty has eased Green Circle’s move into the region, says regional education director Scott Moon.

Salons generate a wide variety of waste. Green Circle recycles excess hair, leftover chemicals, and empty cans and bottles. “Green Circle’s mission is to make the beauty industry 100-per-cent sustainable by the year 2020,” says Moon.

It’s a big goal, especially since the company estimates that the hair and esthetics industry in North America creates about 191,000 kilograms of waste daily. But Green Circle is trying to change that one salon at a time and it’s catching on in the Maritimes. The Head Shoppe group of salons is one of the most recent to join.

“We were very excited,” says stylist Holly Mattie. “You do feel guilty about where all the hair, the colour, and the foils go because it was going in the garbage.”

Now, all of that garbage is sorted into separate boxes in individual salons and then delivered to a Maritime Beauty location. More sorting happens there before they send the waste for recycling and reuse.

“The hair can be used to clean up oil spills,” says Moon. “We’ve also had programs in place where we’ve used hair to actually create pillows distributed to refugee camps set up for victims of natural disasters.”

Mattie recalls sending hair to help clean up a natural disaster years ago.

“There was the big oil spill down in the Gulf of Mexico. I do remember collecting bags of hair and putting them in boxes and dropping them off at the post office.”

While the concept of using hair to clean up oil spills isn’t new, Green Circle’s ongoing recycling program ensures that the resources are available when they’re needed.
Companies across the country use leftover hair dye and bleach to generate energy. Green Circle also recycles empty hairspray cans and shampoo bottles . Salon managers like Stacey Turpin say the impact it’s having on the amount of waste they produce is staggering.

“About 70 to 90 per cent of what we were not able to recycle before is now recycled and reused, so that’s huge,” she says. “We have virtually no waste at the end of the evening.”

Alexander urges salons to jump on board. He believes his company has to set an example and ensure that sustainability is a focus in every aspect of their operations. “Even our lighting, and flooring is based on an environmental choice,” he says.

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