Sustainable Salons launch sharps collection program for the beauty industry

Sustainable salons have launched a safe, convenient and cost-effective program for the responsible disposal of waste materials for injectables.

The launch of the Sharps Collection Program comes after more than 12 months of research and development by the Sustainable Salons Innovations Team.
Headed by Project Assistant Alex Kung, the team resolved the issue after feedback showed that sharps disposal was becoming a rising priority for beauty and dermal industry members.

“Sustainable Salons has existing recycling pathways for many waste items that come from beauty and dermal salons; however, sharps can’t be recycled due to biological contamination,” explains Alex. “According to Australian and New Zealand standards, they must be incinerated at specialist facilities.”

The big issue:

Many are not aware that sharps are not recyclable – causing big problems for those at the pointy end of the industry.

Paul Frasca, co-founder of Sustainable Salons told PB: “We started with the problem, which was that many in the beauty aesthetics space didn’t know there was a problem!” Frasca is referring to a syndrome he calls “wish” recycling – by which well-intended recyclers pop everything in the trash, hoping somebody will sort it out.

Sustainable Salons member Vaia Beauty
Sustainable Salons member Vaia Beauty

Frasca tells me one big misconception is that recycling is automated. “When you ask people how they think recycling happens – they’ll usually describe a kind of robot sorting through their garbage. We have to tell them there are human beings at the end of the system manually processing your rubbish.” These workers are routinely coming into contact with dangerous sharps that have been incorrectly disposed of.

“That’s why we’ve called the campaign ‘Don’t be a prick’,” says Frasca, “we like to have a sense of humour at Sustainable Salons, but we take this very seriously. When a worker comes into contact with sharps, there is no way to know if the needle has been used for botox or intravenous drugs. Any kind of skin penetration can mean a trip to the hospital. We employ many people with disabilities, and that can be a frightening experience that scares them from returning to work.”

Alex Kung, who headed the project, seconds this sentiment: “The seriousness is often brushed aside, which puts people in harm’s way, including cleaners, waste collectors, waste processors and even bystanders. Also, when sharps end up in landfill, they take years to break down, not to mention the biohazard hasn’t been eliminated before dumping them in the Earth.”

Keeping it simple with Sustainable Salons sharps containers
Keeping it simple: The Sustainable Salons sharps containers provide clear instruction for safe disposal

Streamlining processes:

For those who are disposing of sharps effectively, there are enormous cost and time inefficiencies. Currently, sharps can either be dropped off at select pharmacies, a challenge for time-poor business owners or collected at cost. With the new sustainable salons initiative, members can order specialised, compliant sharps containers online and deliver them to their salon. Full containers are returned via fortnightly collection or on-demand pick up (essential for high volume clinics that go through upwards of 100 syringes a week).

Frasca says there has already been huge uptake on the iniative, demonstrating that the beauty industry is very ready to invest in reducing it’s footprint.

Alex Kung says that sharps disposal was becoming a rising priority for beauty and dermal industry members. And beauty businesses are putting their money where there mouth is, signing up for the program in droves.

What’s next?

The next step for Sustainable Salons is addressing the more significant issue: finding a way to recycle the sharps.

Sustainable Salons have had success with traditional non-recyclables like barbershop blades, that can be sterilised and reused through high-heat processing. Because of the combined metal and plastic components of syringes and other beauty industry sharps, that solution is not possible. Sustainable Salons are looking to address the issue with a fully-recyclable alternative.

Frasca sees this as a long-term issue that Sustainable Salons are committed to tackling: “We spend an enormous amount of time on R&D, so first we need to find a prototype that works – then we go to the government and turn it into legislation. We’ve had real success with advocacy like this in the past – for instance. We managed to have the GST removed from medical wigs. So we’re confident with the process, and we’re excited to do it again, and, most importantly, feel the beauty industry is excited about it.”

The Sustainable Salons sharps takeback process:

  1. Sustainable Salon members order specialised, compliant sharps containers online
  2. They are delivered direct to their salon door
  3. Once full, they are returned either via fortnightly pick up or on-demand
  4. Each Sharps Container comes with a YES/NO instruction label to help staff safely and easily dispose of waste, the simple screw top lid tightly seasls the container for collection.

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