daughter of oz salon

Toronto hair salon is helping turn used face masks into renewable energy

Hair salons have had to make some major changes when it comes to implementing safety measures to operate during the pandemic, and that means inevitably producing a ton of waste from disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) used by both staff and customers. 

Masks, wipes, gloves and paper towels are just some of the things being thrown out constantly now that hair salons are permitted to reopen in Toronto. But one business is trying to combat the issue by being part of a sustainable solution.

Daughter of Oz Salon in Leslieville is part of a program called Green Circle Salons, which empowers salons across North America to recover up to 95 per cent of their beauty waste.

"A Green Circle Salon is a salon that is committed to implementing and using sustainable practices and solutions to minimize waste. We recycle 95 per cent of the waste that our salon creates, including hair clippings, excess colour, foil, and colour tubes," said Daughter of Oz owner Jessica Berswick. 

"Basically anything we can't recycle with the City of Toronto, we recycle using the Green Circle Salon program. We collect and separate the waste, then ship it to Green Circle where they process and repurpose it."

Green Circle uses beauty waste for a number of purposes, and hair clippings alone can be used in several different ways: they're made into bio-composite plastic that's used to make recycling bins, they're used to stuff and insulate beds for dogs in shelters, and even to clean up oil spills across Canada — just to name a few.

Berswick's business has been a part of the Green Circle program since she first opened up shop two years ago, and now she's partaking in their efforts to minimize waste produced by PPE.

 The PPE Recovery Initiative works similarly to the program's other recycling strategies, according to Berswick. 

First, PPE is collected and stored safely in a clearly labeled container. Once the container is full, it gets shipped to Green Circle where their processing partners safely incinerate the box and turn it into renewable energy to power homes and businesses.

The remaining ash is used to make filler in asphalt and other construction materials. 

"When guests come into the salon to have their hair done, I want them to know that they're not only supporting my business but that they're also supporting initiatives that help to make our planet cleaner and healthier," Berswick said. 

According to Green Circle's website, pre-pandemic, it was estimated that beauty salons created roughly 877 lbs of waste per minute. And Berswick said the addition of mandatory masks and enhanced cleaning measures has resulted in legitimate concerns that that number will skyrocket.

"When we started the Green Circle Salons movement over a decade ago, our mission was to offer North America-wide sustainability solutions for our industry by 2020," said Green Circle founder and CEO Shane Price in a statement. 

"I am proud to say that today we can support businesses in every zip and postal code to recover up to 95 per cent of their beauty waste, and just as we reached this milestone a new challenge emerged. With the PPE Recovery Initiative, we can ensure that people are kept safe as they return to work without a single new item entering the landfill."

The PPE Recovery Initiative is available to all beauty businesses in Canada and the U.S., including salons, barbershops, spas, manufacturers, distributors and more.

Meanwhile, like most others, Berswick's business has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, and she says she simply can't wait to get back to work while offering a safe and sustainable environment to her loyal customers.

She said she purposefully used the three months in which the salon was closed to work on defining what her business should look like moving forward. And on top of introducing the new PPE initiative, she also  developed a new model to increase donations to organizations that provide essential services to marginalized and at-risk members of the community.

"It feels incredible to not only have my business survive the pandemic so far, but to also be able to give back to people who need it the most," she said.

"Providing a safe salon and having your hair done shouldn't be at the expense of our environment. It's important, now more than ever, that salons take action to prevent further damage as we, the beauty industry, navigate and define this 'new normal.'"

Lead photo by

Daughter of Oz Salon

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