Sustainable Salons Australia (SSA) is the first comprehensive resource recovery service designed for the salon environment that rewards salons and gives back to the community.
Founded by Paul Frasca and Ewelina Soroko in 2015, SSA specialises in collecting up to 95 percent of the salon waste bin and redirecting all material for reuse, recycling and repurposing solutions. The programme also offers rewards for salons’ recycling efforts with useful items and savings for their business, while 100 percent of the recycling proceeds are donated to OzHarvest, a charitable organisation dedicated to feeding the most vulnerable in our community.
For SSA, sustainability is not just about environmental impact – it’s about so much more! Investing in the viability of the salon business, providing for the local people, inspiring the next generation of hairdressing artisans, changing outdated thinking, driving global awareness… all become factors that contribute to a sustainable and healthy people, planet and profit.
Just two years ago, after more than five years of research, SSA signed up its first salons as industry eco warriors. Today, the programme has hundreds of salon members (and growing) across the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland as part of the journey to zero waste.
To date, Sustainable Salons Australia has been awarded the Hair Expo Business Performance of the Year in 2016, as well as the Business Service of the Year at the 2016 Australian Hair Industry Awards.
Paul Frasca talks in detail about the programme, how it works and what’s ahead for this burgeoning brand.
How did Sustainable Salons Australia begin?
Ewelina and I created SSA eight years ago after a very long drive around Australia – which, by the way, took four months and $7000 in petrol! We both still swear it’s the best adventure we’ve ever had.
After many very long discussions (remember it can be over 600km before the next service station), about hairdressing sustainability, and whether it was a product or a service that it needed. We didn’t know. And what we came up with was ZIP. Nothing. I still remember Ewelina saying to me, as a true intellect: “we need to study this more.” And as a true hairdresser, I was like: “Study?!”
The next day we created a plan to study the waste bins of 160 salons, in the hope that we’d find the answer we needed lying in their rubbish. We realised that salon waste had no place to go – except into landfill, or into a yellow council bin. That yellow recycle bin is a funny thing actually; it was designed for residential use and then shoved onto small business. The problem with this is that generally, small businesses can’t actually put most of their waste in that bin, like hair or chemical waste, most plastic or fillers from product delivery – and get this; they even tell hairdressers not to put their foil in the bin. Are they crazy? It’s aluminium!
On top of this, we also found out there was a real lack of transparency as to where the recycle bin waste was ending up. There is also the problem seeing the same truck that picks up your waste then come and pick up your recycle bin – this is a confusing message! And it makes you wonder, what’s the point?
We set out to fix the salon waste problem and create the greatest resource recovery service the world has ever seen! Sustainable Salons Australia was officially brought to life two years ago in NSW, and is now in the ACT, QLD and VIC.
What materials are recycled and how does Sustainable Salons enable this process?
We go directly to the salon door to collect more than 95% of the salon’s waste fortnightly. We provide all in-salon bins and outside collection bins to suit their needs. And we have the sexiest purple recycle bins in town!
We provide a whole range of marketing tools that can be used within the salon to build awareness with clients, but more importantly to blow their minds on how great the salon is to be implementing such an ambitious recycling programme.
We have several aspects to the resource recovery system… we collect paper, plastics, metals, hair (and ponytails), chemicals, razors, tools and more. The hair swept up from the salon floor becomes a hair boom, which means when the client comes in to get a haircut, they’re directly contributing to the potential clean-up of an oil spill in The Great Barrier Reef.
We’re also now the largest collector and donor of ponytails in Australia – we send them to Variety The Children’s Charity to be made into wigs for children with alopecia and cancer.
Chemical waste is now being turned back into clean water used for manufacturing and building, rather than going down the drain and contaminating our oceans.
Aluminium is infinitely recyclable, so we divert all of a salon’s foil, aluminium colour tubes, canisters and product packaging from landfill back into recycled resources.
Even plastic bags have a story! They’re all sent to an award-winning company called “Plastic Forest” – they turn them into heavy-duty plastic walls that go underground to protect our NBN.
The best part is that 100 percent of the profits from all of this recycled waste goes back into the community via OzHarvest to help feed hungry Australians… for every $1 donated, two meals are provided to the most vulnerable in our community (we average 2000 meals per month).
We also help gather and organise hairdressers to support local charity haircutting events, such as Rough Threads, Homeless Connect, Front Yard, Dry July and more.
You offer a Rewards Programme for your members, how does this work?
We believe salon owners should be rewarded for their recycling efforts, that’s why we offer them rewards points that they can spend on products, tools and/or services that benefit their business bottom line, the planet and the community. Points are earned each week via their membership, which they can spend in the Rewards Shop on items such as biodegradable gloves and coffee pods, Refoil, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, sustainably-produced tools and brushes… and so much more!
What makes up the five percent that you
Any organic waste i.e. food scraps. Also, there is no recycling solution for biodegradable towels, rather they are discarded as general waste and break down over time. Unfortunately we also can’t collect and recycle cotton towels and capes/clothing – textile waste is a huge landfill problem that many are working hard to find a solution for.
Can these non-recyclable items be replaced with an alternative, or reused in other ways?
In our Rewards Shop, we have a composting system that our members can purchase if they’d like to go the extra step – our aim is always try to offer solutions in the Rewards Shop for the items we can’t collect. Likewise, we are now sourcing bamboo towels as an alternative to the cotton towels, for those who prefer not to use the biodegradable option.
What are the benefits for salons that are involved in this programme?
The marketing potential is key – as a member, the salon has access to all of the Sustainable Salons Australia messaging, information, design collateral and branding, and community affiliations – this immediately improves the salon’s environmental credentials and helps them attract a new type of clientele. Additionally, the Rewards Shop is a tangible benefit that salons can take advantage of from the first week they’re involved in the programme; they make real savings on everyday salon essentials.
What has been the highlight for Sustainable Salons so far?
For us, it’s about creating real change. What we’ve put in place with Sustainable Salons Australia is transparent, tangible and measurable – we’re not just about the message, we’re about real action. This has a positive impact on the environment, and it also translates into a significant business advantage for our clients – salons are winning business awards, getting more clientele and better staff, and improving their local community. We started on a journey to make salon waste history and it’s having a positive ripple effect.
What are the next steps for Sustainable Salons?
SSA has grown substantially in the last two years since our launch – from Sydney to Canberra, then to Melbourne and now Brisbane. Our immediate goal of course is to cover territories across all major Australian cities, and we’d love to open up the SSA programme to our neighbours in New Zealand. But our end game is to go one step further and make our programme available to every single salon in Australia, and this means heading into regional areas too – into Wagga Wagga and Broken Hill, Bendigo to Ballarat, we want no salon left out in the cold!
We’ve recently introduced a full-time marketing department to work towards greater consumer reach via projects such as The Green Chair, which will now be a quarterly publication; we plan to take up and instigate national press opportunities on news channels, documentaries and key fashion and beauty publications; and we’ll eventually have a consumer directory for our website – this will ultimately help our SSA salons attract more clients, and a new calibre of sustainably-minded staff.
SSA is investing strongly in hair boom research and development at the University of Technology Sydney. Why?
Because hair booms are not yet the go-to solution for cleaning up oil spills and we want to change this. Our goal is to have a hair boom supply ready and waiting at each port Australia-wide, in case of emergency. Leading this project is UTS Masters student Rebecca Pagnucco – Rebecca is the first student in Australia to take on this ambitious and extraordinary assignment.
Finally, regarding our ponytail collection programme – at the rate this industry is cutting off ponytails, in 2017 we are looking to be the world’s largest donor! What an amazing achievement this could be for the Australian hairdressing industry!