Plastic Free July is the perfect time to talk about hair. Specifically, why your hair is such a big deal when it comes to supporting the global need to reduce our plastic consumption (and to do so fast!).
For starters, what does your daily haircare routine involve? Shampoo and conditioner, most likely, but what else? Do you use a volume-boosting spray, a pre-shampoo oil treatment, a heat protection spray? And what about other haircare products that you use? Those deeply nourishing masks may do wonders for your gloss and shine, but what is their packaging doing for the planet?
The impact of plastic pollution
According to The Ocean Cleanup, the impact of plastic pollution is long term. That’s because plastic doesn’t break down in the way that so many materials do. That’s why there’s so much emphasis not just on recycling plastic that’s already in circulation, but on reducing its production in the first place. Sadly, even with the current work to raise awareness of this issue, the 381 million tonnes of plastic waste that is produced every year is set to double in volume by 2034.
Every year, between 8 million and 11 million tonnes of that plastic ends up in our oceans. The effects on marine life include entanglement, ingestion and starvation. There is a chemical element to the pollution as well, with pollutants building up in rivers and then flowing out into the oceans.
The United Nations estimates that, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Yes only 50% of Brits are currently recycling their bathroom waste. That’s versus 90% of kitchen waste – hence the emphasis on needing to address the issue of bathroom-related plastic waste.
Where does Plastic Free July fit in?
The scale of the problem is such that people around the world are coming together every year to show how we can all make a difference when we work together. The focus of this work is Plastic Free July. Some people use the month to move to living plastic free, to show that it can be done. Others focus on reducing their plastic consumption through replacing certain items. Others use the month to raise awareness of this important cause.
Plastic Free July began a decade ago and has attracted interest from around the world in that time. The most recent survey on the subject by All Things Hair found that 62.7% of respondents planned to participate in Plastic Free July this year (while 76.4% of them actively recycle their plastic waste).
However you choose to get involved, your hair is a great place to start.
What does hair have to do with Plastic Free July?
The beauty industry doesn’t have a good record when it comes to plastic production. Every year, the industry produces over 120 billion units of plastic packaging. 120 billion!
Haircare manufacturers play a huge role in that. So, what are your options when it comes to tackling your haircare plastic habit?
Well, there are some very quick and easy ways to start reducing your plastic consumption – and to still have fabulous looking hair! The first is to swap your bottled shampoo and conditioner for solid versions. Shampoo and conditioner bars have come a long way in recent years. A huge number of beautifully scented products await you, so if you haven’t looked into solid shampoo before, you’re in for a treat.
Solid shampoo and conditioner work just as effectively as the liquid equivalents. Essentially, they are the same products, just with the water removed from the solid versions. So whether you use a shampoo for dry hair, greasy hair, dandruff, a two-in-one or anything else, you’ll be able to find shampoo and conditioner bars that are perfectly suited to your hair type.
It’s well worth shopping around when it comes to alternative hair products too. Do businesses in your local area offer beauty product refills that allow you to use your own packaging? How about items such as conditioning masks, which plenty of eco-shops will supply in compostable packaging? Once you start to look, you may be surprised at how much is available locally in terms of plastic free haircare.
Some hair products take a little more imagination to replace. Do you have naturally thin or flat hair? If so, why not try your hand at making your own volumising conditioner treatment? Simply mix one part conditioner to one part Epsom salts and away you go!
Looking at different brands than you usually buy from can open up some plastic replacement options too. From metal tubes of conditioning mask to glass pots of all kinds of unguents, there’s an ever-increasing array of options available these days, as manufacturers become more responsible in terms of their use of plastic (albeit mostly incredibly slowly).
Finally, if you really must buy plastic, at least opt for a brand that uses recycled plastic to make its packaging – and that will then take that packaging back and recycle it once more.
Looking beyond hair
Of course, it’s not just hair products that are behind the beauty industry’s incredible plastic production problem. As such, if you’re looking into reducing the amount of plastic packaging that you use for your hair, why not extend the process to the rest of your bathroom too?
There are certainly plenty of easily available options these days. Your toothbrush, razor, cotton buds, sponge, cotton wool pads and more all have non-plastic alternatives available. The same is true for the majority of the lotions and potions that you use for your beauty regime. From body lotions and butters to toothpaste, you can find non-plastic packaging with very little effort these days. And thoroughly enjoy the process of giving your beauty regime an overhaul as part of the process!