NJ Hair Salons Are Going Green Thanks to Unique Recycling Program

Conscientious salon owners are doing their part to prevent excess dyes, foils and hair from contaminating our water supply.

Lauren Curley of Cranford’s Legacy Salon

Lauren Curley of Cranford’s Legacy Salon is all-in on the TerraCycle program that allows her to recycle waste from her salon with ease. Photo: Courtesy Lauren Curley

Most people who visit one of the thousands of hair salons in New Jersey don’t think about where all the excess dye, chemicals, foils and hair they generate end up. Spoiler: It typically goes to landfills or gets dumped down the drain, leaching into our soil and contaminating our water.

Some conscientious salon owners, however, are finding ways to keep these products out of the waste stream. Lauren Curley, owner of Legacy Salon in Cranford, uses a program called SalonCycle, run by the Trenton-based recycling company TerraCycle.

Curley is thrilled with the program, which she started using about a year ago. In contrast with a previous salon-waste pickup program she was using, TerraCycle’s system is inexpensive and simple to use, she says. TerraCycle provides two boxes and a bucket, into which Curley and her employees toss empty bottles, foils, hair and excess dye; when the receptacles are full, they are picked up by UPS as new ones are dropped off.

“Everything is recycled, not just safely disposed of,” she says. “The chemicals are burned for energy and become a resource; the recycled hair is used to clean up oil spills. It blows my mind.”

The program does cost more than simply tossing the waste into a dumpster, but she passes that cost on to customers in the form of a $3 “eco-fee” for each visit. The vast majority of customers are happy to pay it, she says. “The reception to our sustainability focus has been phenomenal; it’s actually brought in clients who say nature and biodegradability are important to them.”

Curley also saves money on trash pickup. Previously, she was paying for a dumpster she shared with two other business. Now, because she only has one bag a week, she doesn’t have to pay for the dumpster.

And the good feeling she gets from knowing that her trash is being recycled and not polluting the earth is priceless, she says.

“When I bring my one small bag of trash out to the curb, I’m so proud.”

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