Would you pick up a bottle of nail polish remover and tip it into your fish tank? You just scoffed, didn’t you? Out loud, too, I bet. I know how ridiculous that question seems, but it isn’t really.

We often don’t think twice about pouring leftover liquids down our sink, which can essentially have the same effect in our oceans as that acetone in your finned friend’s underwater mansion.

Our councils and government do their best to assure us that what we wash down the drain is treated before it gushes out into our waterways. The truth is, they can’t really be sure because chemicals often persist through the water treatment process. Actually, the United Nations reports that 80% of the world’s wastewater flows back into the rivers and oceans without being treated. Yikes!

And what happens when fish food is laced with chemicals? Our fish food is laced with chemicals – chemicals that were used to power the V-2 rockets of World War 2! Yep, that’s how powerful hydrogen peroxide is.

In high concentration, these chemicals can cause endocrine system disruption in fish – basically, this means reproductive, behavioural, immune system and neurological disorders, including the big C. Other animals eat the sick fish, then they’re poisoned and the whole situation gets worse as you go higher up the food chain. Ending with us.

At the moment, the micro-plastics findings are making headlines, and many researchers have started to release just how much of those nasty particles are ending up in our bodies (apparently if you’re an avid mussel-lover, you could be ingesting up to 11,000 micro-plastics a year!). Well, I’m predicting that the chemical story is not too far behind.

So, let’s get in front of it now.

It’s no secret that all salons have excess chemicals; our businesses survive (and thrive) on a liquid diet. Some of you do your best to seek out more eco-friendly options for your professional products and cleaning solutions, which is a fantastic place to start. But for those items that don’t have the green seal of approval, how do you minimise your toxic footprint?

Unfortunately, it’s still very difficult for small businesses to divert their own chemical waste because of the small quantities. Currently excess chemicals can only be collected in a 1000L drum – how long would it take your salon to fill that with leftover colour mixture? An insanely long time (we hope!). And where would you put that thing anyway?

At Sustainable Salons, we went on a mission to make chemical recycling available to our industry and we’re now the first and only organisation to offer it successfully. Our 20L in-salon yellow buckets have so far saved more than 7,500 litres of excess chemicals from ending up in our precious waterways.

And just like a modern-day miracle, they’re all turned back into water and used in roadworks, construction and manufacturing. That means the foaming cleanser you’re using right now could be made using recycled water from foaming cleansers before it… it’s like reincarnation, for chemicals.

It’s made possible because most liquids – including peroxide – are approximately 98% water, and that’s what makes the whole process so worthwhile. It’s actually quite simple to keep these liquids in circulation and out of our oceans.

Hygiene, cosmetic and specialty products industry body Accord Australasia has given our system two thumbs up, publicly endorsing it on many occasions. Mostly we think they’re just relieved that we have hundreds of amazing salon members around Oz and NZ who care enough about our waterways to swap their back room sink for a simple yellow bucket.

As an industry so reliant on products and potions, perhaps it’s time we all band together to stir the pot on this issue – let’s make modern-day miracles happen, every day.

Keen to join the movement? See how easy it is to ‘Become a Sustainable Salon’ and together we can keep excess chemicals from ending up in our waterways.