Shopping the loop

It’s not often we’re treated as the consumer in our own industry (honestly, when was the last time you sat in the chair and had a service end to end at a salon you don’t own or work at?), but for the next few minutes, I’d love you to put your consumer decision-making hat on and walk with me. We’re going shopping.

Today, we’re hitting the ‘closed-loop mall’ for a spot of window-shopping into the recycled product process (trust me, it’s all the endorphins without the buyer’s remorse, you’ll see).

The loop begins here: separating and collecting.

Hopefully by now you know that Sustainable Salons collects salon materials that might otherwise end up in landfill, and recycles and repurposes them into items that can be used again. Well, we’ve just released our latest positive impact stats and we’re proud to say that our network around Australia and New Zealand has now prevented 829,474kg of discarded resources (paper, metals, plastic, hair, chemicals, e-waste and more!) from being wasted. That’s all thanks to the commitment of more than 1,300 salon members over six years all diligently being the source – the ground zero – of our closed-loop process. Without their dedication to separating materials in the salon, we’d have 829,474kg of unusable mess on our hands. 

That’s kind of what Australia has found itself dealing with in the last few years. When China shut its doors to our waste, we finally woke up to our own mess. So, now that we’re forced to process it ourselves (which is awesome, btw!), we’ve started to look at our waste as valuable materials instead – what can we do with it? How can it benefit us instead of draining resources just to put it in the ground? It’s inspired small businesses, universities, larger manufacturers and governments to start the closed-loop process – many are working together to innovate new ways of accessing single-source, recyclable materials to make new products.

Now we’re in the middle of the loop: manufacturing recycled products.

Once we have this single, viable, recyclable material, the world is our oyster! The Sustainable Salons closed-loop mission is moving ahead at a rapid pace – so far, we’ve made glasses frames from shampoo bottles in our collaboration with local eyewear manufacturer Dresden Vision, and recently we released 100% post-consumer recycled plastic dog leashes via an awesome partnership with Hi Jac and Sydney-based recycled plastic manufacturer, Defy Design (check out our socials for info on both of these products). It doesn’t stop there, though. We have three more product collaborations almost ready for release, and a huge number in the works. And not just with plastic, either. In 2020, we brought on an in-house innovations team specifically to move this vision forward as quickly as possible because we promised our network real, effective solutions.

But we’re not the only ones out there driving awesome products out of recycled materials; hundreds of local manufacturers and innovators are producing amazing things from the stuff we throw away. Accessing the ‘eco’ offering is not like finding a needle in a haystack anymore – the shelves are stocked, the recycled products are getting louder and prouder, now they just need YOU!

It’s time to close the loop with your $$$: buy recycled!

You’re researching your options, you’re perusing the shelves – do you reach for recycled? Some of us might like to think we would, and maybe some of you are already following through. But if not, why not? Often it comes down to two reasons: cost and quality.

Firstly, we’re used to buying cheap. We’ve been fed low-cost goods from China for as long as we can remember, and our value scale is all out. We once put this to our Sustainable Salons friend and awesome eco-warrior, Kate Hall (known as Ethically Kate on her blog and socials), and she explained it like this:

Anything we buy from China doesn’t represent the true cost. A $5 t-shirt doesn’t add up [when you think about all the costs associated in making the product accessible to the consumer: materials, labour, machinery, merchandising, marketing and shipping] but a $60 one does. ‘Green companies’ suffer with smaller production runs and higher costs because the demand just isn’t there – there is often a premium we wouldn’t have to pay if more people were purchasing.

These local manufacturers and innovators I mentioned earlier, they’ve all taken a huge risk to set themselves up to recycle your goods. It can cost hundreds of thousands for machinery and labour to take what you throw away and turn it into something usable so it stays out of landfill. And that makes us as consumers feel warm and fuzzy because we know someone else is positively taking care of the waste we’ve created.

But now we’re inching into unchartered territory. These manufacturers are stocking fantastic recycled goods that people aren’t purchasing, which may prevent them from recycling your discarded materials in the future. If we don’t start buying recycled asap, we could break the loop completely, and then we’re right back to where we started. With an unusable mess.

I know it’s tough to move away from what you know and feel comfortable with; changing habits is hard. But we did it with our reusable coffee cups! Think back to when you were grappling with the idea of spending $30 on your first Keep Cup – now, who could live without it? It’s the same journey for other purchasing decisions. The real beauty here is that these recycled products are designed and made locally, which means these brands employ local people, work diligently towards quality (because there’s a traceable face to the product) and are hungry for your feedback on how they can create what YOU actually want, need and like. 

So next time you’re ‘just window-shopping’, add recycled to cart. It’s 100% guilt-free.

Keen to join the movement? See how easy it is to Become a Sustainable Salon