The final ‘R’ in getting started on your journey to an eco-friendly business recognizes that, while we are REDUCING our dependence on plastic and working hard to REUSE what we have, it’s impossible to operate efficiently without some disposable items. From essential tools to retail products, plastic, aluminum, glass, paper and more are crucial components that still make sense in some ways.
So, we RECYCLE. But while the recycling industry has assuaged our guilt, it is frightening to realize that 91% of the plastic used in America still ends up in landfill, as well as almost all dirty aluminum foils. If we are to embrace the final ‘R’ of environmental awareness we need to stop ‘wishcycling’ and face the dirty facts about how to properly RECYCLE our waste.
Begin with education
Will Simpson, lead educator with Green Circle Salons, who along with Sustain Beauty Co is focused on helping salons improve their sustainability, believes it must start with education. "If you are putting non-recyclable or dirty plastic into your recycling, it will contaminate the entire batch and it will all be sent to landfill," he says. "Ignorance is one of the biggest obstacles to successful recycling."
Good intentions will not save the planet and every area in the country is also different in what they are equipped to handle, so Will always advises checking with your local municipality to find out what they can and will RECYCLE.
No matter how green your city, there will be some aspects that only an industry specific agency, like Green Circle Salons, can handle. That includes all hair clippings, foils, waste color and more will be taken away by them and repurposed or RECYCLED.
Check labels and know your stuff
Getting to know your plastics is the next step – you can do this by checking the imprint on any plastic containers. There are seven types. If it is marked PET* or HDPE, it can be RECYCLED. PP can be RECYCLED but only 3% is, often because it isn’t clean. LDPE can be RECYCLED but it can be difficult to find a recycling company that will take it. PVC is downright dangerous to RECYCLE while polystyrene or Styrofoam is so fragile it breaks up easily and goes into the environment, and has been found in the stomachs of many marine creatures. It is also dangerous when heated. Finally, if there is #7 plastic, which covers all other unspecified plastic waste, it most likely will not be RECYCLED.
Get it sorted
Separating waste into various streams increases the chances of it being properly processed. The alternative – multi-stream collection in the same bin – is near to useless for the collectors and even dangerous. Some plastics become toxic when heated while others are combustible. Meanwhile, glass, paper and cardboard go through completely different processes.
Give it a wash
Many of the recycling processes involve heat, so foils will end up with baked-on color, cartons with boiled milk or glass jars with the dregs of roasted coffee at the bottom and so risk contaminating not just your recycling, but the whole batch collected together, rendering it fit for landfill only. So clean it before binning it.
Check your source
The last step to limiting ‘wishcycling’ is to source thoughtfully. Cut out single-use plastic, introduce tech like Vish or Salon Scale at your color bar to reduce color waste, use only what you need when you foil or convert altogether to Paper Not Foil to limit aluminum waste, avoid waxed cardboard that can’t be RECYCLED, check the imprint on any plastic so you don’t buy non-recyclable versions and stop buying bottled water or offering refreshments in disposable cups.
- Educate yourself
- Separate out waste
- Clean it
- Source thoughtfully
Check out the other articles in the 3Rs Series.
About SBCo: Sustain Beauty Co was born with the mission to help identify authentic, credible and environmentally responsible brands that put stylists at the forefront of their purpose. All Sustain Beauty Co products must: 1) Reduce the footprint of consumables in our industry. 2) Empower artists to create beauty responsibly. 3) Protect the stylist and the environment equally. 4) Come from ethical sources and responsible manufacturing facilities. Going ‘green’ shouldn’t sacrifice quality, and the professional beauty industry should have more options to be sustainably beautiful.
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