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Salons join program to cut waste and increase recycling

ST. PETERSBURG — Bambu, The Eco Salon had been recycling for the past five years, but after becoming Green Circle Salon certified, they’ve joined a few other salons in the area in an environmentally friendly initiative that has them cutting their waste by 95 percent — even recycling hair and coloring chemicals.

Green Circle Salon is a Toronto-based operation with more than 1,500 member salons that trains salons in how to minimize their waste, offering certification to those who follow its guidelines.

"Salon waste is a huge problem," said Jennifer Henry, director of global brand strategy for Green Circle Salon. "Consumers don’t typically realize how much waste salons generate. No one probably displays their trash bin. ... It’s a big, big problem."

On average, Henry estimates salons in North America generate 421,206 pounds of waste daily. She said since 2009, Green Circle Salons have been able to divert 3.9 million pounds from landfill.

The program sends cardboard bins the salons to separate their waste. Hair clippings are used to soak up oil in natural disasters or to create a sort of marble, granite material, mixed with concrete. The excess color that would otherwise go down the drain is collected and processed at a chemical waste processing plant. Foil used for coloring treatments is cleaned and then recycled. Cotton strips from waxing are recycled. Overnight, Bambu’s manager and herbalist Miranda Collette said the business cut 95 percent of its waste.

Owner Chris Kiss and his business partner Joshua DeBlock had spent years in the salon industry. But they wanted to get away from what literally was a toxic environment.

"We just kept talking about all the smells that go on in a salon," Kiss said. "We could smell perms, Brazilian blowouts."

They heard of a NASA Clean Air study that identified certain plants that removed formaldehyde, ammonia and other chemicals from the air, and hired a horticulturist to help them set up shop.

A few years ago, they heard about the Green Circle Salon certification program, then available only in Canada. The program claims to eliminate the majority of waste generated by hair salons, and divert it from landfills and waterways.

"Human hair, you wouldn’t think, is too much of a waste problem because its an organic material, it’ll break down," Henry said. "If it’s in a bag, and doesn’t get light and air, it becomes anaerobic. It creates methane gas, trying to break down. Methane gas leads to climate change.

Since they became certified, Collette said they still haven’t had a bag full of actual trash to take out.

"It’s been a dream come true," she said.

Bambu joins three other salons in the area are also Green Circle Certified.

The Midori organic salons, with locations in Largo and Clearwater, were certified about three years ago, Jessica Thompson, director of operations, said. But when they first opened more than a decade ago, they didn’t want to bring attention to the fact that they were eco-friendly.

"At first (the owner) didn’t market that we were organic because there was a stigma that organic didn’t work," Thompson said. "But it just means it’s free of any harsh ingredients. ... We’re going to live in this world for a long time."

Erin Childs, owner and hairdresser at Co-Lab salon, said their salon has been certified for about a year now. Complying with the Green Circle rules has been surprisingly easy, she said.

The certification costs the businesses $300 a year and they are sent collection boxes for waste that they mail back, postage costs covered. Bambu is adding a $1.50 "environmental stewardship" fee to all of its services, but Kiss said so far patrons have been happy to contribute.

Collette said they’re hopeful others will consider doing the same.

"Were hoping to convince as many salons in the neighborhood and the area and the city to get on board," she said.

Contact Divya Kumar at [email protected] Follow @divyadivyadivya.

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