Bob People: The Story behind Sustainable Salons with Paul Frasca
Each year in Australia, over 1.5 million kilograms of foil goes to landfill, and only 1% of salons are recycling foil. That’s why we’re working with Sustainable Salons to collect and recycle 100% of our waste including foil, hair clippings, paper, cardboard and colour tubes.
A visionary company that was founded by Paul Frasca – whose successful hair career started at the tender age of 11 – and Ewelina Soroko – whose background lies in sustainable and ethical fashion – Sustainable Salons was conceived for the simple reason that the hair industry’s environmental problem could not be ignored.
The first of a three part series that helps our clients to understand our green initiatives, here, Paul Frasca talks us through the beginnings of the business that collects up to 95% of what goes in the salon bin and redirects all material for reuse, recycling and re-purposing solutions.
“Working with hair is absolutely my first passion. I have so much love for this industry, so when I realised it has such a huge environmental waste problem, I couldn’t let it go. I could see that no one else was ready to get down and dirty to make it happen. So, was I going to ignore it, or take the challenge on? At the end of the day, it was a no-brainer. And I’ll admit the path to Sustainable Salons – where we now recycle and repurpose up to 95% of hair salon waste – has definitely been a challenge!
Really, it all started when I met my partner, Ewelina Soroko. Her passion for the environment and the knowledge she shared about sustainability completely resonated with me. I’ve been working as a hairdresser since the age of 11, yet it only occurred to me through Ewelina just how wasteful the hair industry is. Our discussions always came back to the same issue. Hair salons were creating massive amounts of waste that could be recycled, but a huge majority of it was going straight from salon to landfill. It was obvious that it was an enormous problem. The only question was, how deep does the rabbit hole go?
We decided to start off small, looking at just one material: aluminium foil. With a little research (i.e. more than a month on the road, visiting and collecting bags full of used foils from hundreds of hair salons), we found that Australian hairdressers send one million kilos of foil to landfill every year. So much for starting small! The sheer amount of waste was really unbelievable, and foils were just the beginning. There was an enormous volume of other items ending up in landfill, from shampoo and conditioner bottles, aerosol cans, mountains of hair, not to mention dyes and chemicals poured straight down the drain.
“As I stood looking at our van stuffed to the brim with used hair foil, it was clear to me. Tackling the hair industry’s waste problem was my new calling. “
Fast-forward a couple of years, Ewelina and I had co-founded Sustainable Salons and we began signing up our first few hairdressers to the brand new resource collection system.
“Those were long days, when the two of us were the whole team. We would drive up and down the coast to sign new salons to our program, dive into their bins to pick up their recyclables, bring it back to our depot, sort it by hand and then send it off to be processed.“
Sustainable Salons still collects and processes everything by hand, but thankfully we now have a bigger team!
“Three years on and the hustle has been worth it. Our multi-award-winning program has now rescued over 219 tonnes of waste! That includes a whopping 52,000 kg of plastic, 81,700 kg of metals, 70,800 kg of paper, 7,500 litres of excess chemicals, and 7,100 kg of hair.”
Not only that, all the money made from those resources goes towards providing meals for our communities’ most vulnerable. Through OzHarvest and KiwiHarvest, we have helped to provide over 48,000 meals! We also have the largest ponytail donation program in Australia, with over 25,300 ponytails collected resulting in 1,265 wigs or those who have alopecia or suffer from medical treatment related hair loss.
When a client of Bob pays the small Sustainable Salons fee, 40% goes to resource collection and redirection, 20% supports community initiatives, 5% is spent on awareness and education, 25% is spent on implementing green practices and perhaps most importantly, 10% goes to researching recycling solutions that’d take Sustainable Salons to a zero-waste business.”
Want to learn more? Read more about Sustainable Salons here.