How many times have you taken down your braids or squeezed the last bit of life out of that synthetic wig and simply thrown it in the bin without a second thought? Out of sight out of mind, but that small action contributes to an estimated annual 281 million tonnes of global plastic waste. Most people using synthetic hair (including myself until recently) are not aware of its environmental impact when it is not carefully disposed of. Since the hair is mainly made of polyester, acrylic or PVC, it is not biodegradable.
Some might suggest using human hair instead, since it is fully biodegradable (however, the process can take decades) and can be used multiple times if cared for correctly. However, human hair comes with its own problems. Firstly, its higher price point means it is not an option for everyone. Further, even if price is not an issue, there are concerns around the ethics of the human hair supply chain- namely its (lack of) transparency and uncertainty over whether hair has been donated consensually or fairly paid for. Recently, Leanne Alie discussed the supply chain of human hair extensions on her Coiled podcast, including how to be sure that the hair has been ethically sourced. Listen now wherever you get your podcasts.
So where does this leave us?
In a changing world where sustainability seems to be the new buzzword, the synthetic hair industry has been left behind. A study in the Journal of Remanufacturing points out that there is a lack of research into the environmental impact of synthetic hair, despite the industry being worth around £6.2 billion in the UK alone. Black British women spend up to six times more on haircare compared to white women, and synthetic hair is marketed primarily towards this very demographic.
At Tiwani Heritage, we're tackling this issue head-on. We want to make it easy for you to make the most informed beauty decisions. Opt into our recycling scheme and send your used synthetic hair (any brand) to us, to ensure that they are disposed of correctly. Learn more about it here: Recycling your hair extensions – Tiwani Heritage
And we’re not stopping there. We have also partnered with Treedom to offset some of our carbon emissions via tree planting. We have so far planted trees in Cameroon, giving much needed support to local farmers by investing in their livelihoods.
We're continually looking at ways in which we can do more in our own small way, and we have a hugely exciting project launching later this year, so be sure to keep up with us on our socials for more information.
We are not the only ones who are taking action; there are a number of other great initiatives run by like-minded brands. For example, sites like NaturallyCurly.com are packed with tips on how to maintain and reuse your synthetic hair to really get the most out of it. And if you are seeking ethically-sourced human hair, check out companies like REMY NY, which have a transparent supply chain and pay all of their hair donors a fair price.
With all of this in mind, we really have no excuse. Let's all do our bit to do better.