Paper Not Foil – A Sustainable Solution for Hair Salons

Sarah Flutey
Head of Marketing at Timely
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Amanda Buckingham is the creator of Paper Not Foil, a sustainable alternative to hair foils. Unlike foil, Amanda’s ‘paper’ alternative is made from 100% recycled materials and is completely degradable… a first for the hair industry.

Hi Amanda, how’s it going? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a mother of three, a hairdresser of 25 years, and a wife to another hairdresser/sales manager for Oway NZ. My husband Scott and I owned our own successful salon in Dunedin where Paper Not Foil was born.

I have always had enormous passion for our industry, I have won countless awards, as both an educator for hairdressers and as a personal stylist. I love our hairdressing industry and I love that I am making a difference to not only our environment but to our stylists and clients.

I’m pretty keen on having a wine and a laugh, good food, dancing would fit into that picture somewhere and of course the passion for fashion.

I’m very excited about how our industry is changing to be more environmentally conscious.

What led you to starting Paper Not Foil?

The solution came to me a few years ago when I was looking to change to a more sustainable approach to hairdressing in our salon. I was searching through our rubbish bins looking at what we could reuse/recycle and how we could make a difference.

I calculated that our salon was using on average 1.5 KM of tinfoil every month. Even further – NZ salons were using enough tin foil to wrap around the earth once every year, imagine this globally!

The problem also being that under 10% of this was being recycled, the rest was being dumped into our landfill. Even though aluminium can be recycled it produces toxic salt cake which can’t be disposed of along with toxic fumes from incineration. There is a whole lot of green washing out there and it’s fantastic to have choices.

I was searching through our rubbish bins looking at what we could reuse/recycle and how we could make a difference. I calculated that our salon was using on average 1.5 KM of tinfoil every month.

What is Paper Not Foil exactly?

Paper Not Foil is a fully sustainable alternative to using aluminium or plastic to colour hair. Paper Not Foil is made of construction waste – calcium carbonate with a degradable food resin. It is completely degradable so when you dispose of it, it simply turns to dust with absolutely no detriment to our environment.

It comes in a large pre-cut size (13cm wide by 40cm long) and a small size (10cm wide by 40cm long) that can be cut to whatever length or shape you wish.

Paper Not Foil is non-detrimental to our environment, air, animals, and humans, from it’s manufacturing to it’s disposal.

  • Reusable
  • Degradable
  • Compostable
  • Recyclable
  • Easy to use
  • Client comfort enhanced
  • Saves clients money
Paper not foil has strong values

What are some of the values and goals for the business?

To care, inspire and make a difference to our salons, our stylists and our clients.

We love innovation, educating and inspiring salons, our goal is to share more about how beneficial paper is for colouring not only on a sustainable level but a creative level.

I’m really looking forward to being in front of salons sharing new colour ideas.

Do you remember how you came up with the idea?

While wrapping my children’s lunches with lunch paper, I thought, “Hold up – what about baking paper.”

I took a roll of baking paper to work, foiled a mannequin head and watched to see what would happen.

It didn’t work! But it gave me the inspiration to find an alternative.

At the time I worked for a leading Hairdressing Distributor as a Colour Technician and asked the question, “Could you please see if there is anything available to foil with that ticks the boxes from it’s manufacturing to recycling to disposal?”.

After many trades shows and general googling, there wasn’t anything.

So I decided to make an alternative!

Why is an initiative like Paper Not Foil so important in today’s society?

Number one reason is to preserve what we have for our future. I certainly want to know that I have made a difference in reducing my carbon footprint. I think it’s important for society to be educated on options they have, options that will make a significant difference.

Paper Not Foil gives society a choice to make that difference. I also think that as stylists we need to inspire our clients, and Not Foil does that. You inspire them by being environmentally conscious but also by using a colour tool that is creative and a point of difference.

Paper Not Foil interview with Amanda

What advantages and/or disadvantages does paper have versus foil?


They’re reusable, just put it in the washing machine! They’re fully degradable, recyclable, compostable, easier to apply, faster, no noisey rustling, easier to wash out, lighter on the head, no waste, easy to prepare, no folding, can be made into any size and shape for creative colouring, cheaper for our salons to use.


You don’t need to fold over a comb or fold into parcels, so some stylists find it can take a couple of goes to get the hang of it. It’s not a bad thing, just a different way to colour, but in the end easier and faster.

Some salons would also say having to wash and dry them. However if you want to reuse them all you need to do is hand rinse, pat dry or put them into the washing machine with a few towels, pull out, pat dry, and flatten, hang on the line or clothes horse, or turn them over in a basket during the day and they dry in no time. In reality washing and drying Paper Not Foil takes no more time than it would to cut tinfoil for preparation.

You don’t have to re-use them. Even if you throw them away they are non detrimental. The whole point was to have no toxic waste produced in its manufacturing, recycling and disposal. A first in our industry.

How are the salon clients reacting to the paper instead of foil?

We have fantastic feedback from clients/customers. A few key points that stand out is that it doesn’t make that horrible noise, and it’s lighter on the client’s head.

In fact some of our salons have had clients come to them because they use Paper Not Foil.

Clients feel good that they have had contributed to making a difference. In fact some of our salons have had clients come to them because they use Paper Not Foil.

I have even had feedback from salons saying that their clients only want to have Paper Not Foil used to colour their hair from now on – along with how they would even pay more money to have paper used!

This feedback always re-enforces the exact reason why we produced Paper Not Foil.

What is the biggest misconception that you hear about Paper Not Foil?

That it’s made from trees!

No trees felled here, just a recycled product from the construction industry.

Salons often think that it will be harder to use or not perform the same. Paper Not Foil is easier to use as you simply just place it on the area you wish to colour, fold up, press together and it sticks. It is a chalky consistency so it sticks to the colour and eliminates time consuming folding.

How has the product has been received across NZ/AU, and how has the expansion into the UK gone so far?

Fantastic! We have had very similar feedback in Australia and salons have shared to us that they have been waiting for an alternative!

Our UK distributor will launch early next year and the feedback from salons who have tried Paper Not Foil is extremely positive. Our UK distributor has been offering pre sales of Paper Not Foil from interested salons. We are pretty excited about entering into the UK market as we are having a lot of interest through social media from that part of our world.

What’s the biggest challenge that Paper Not Foil faces currently, and how could people help?

I think change is sometimes scary for people. I guess a way of helping would be to share your success with us so we can promote your salon and the amazing things your doing with Paper Not Foil. The more people who share our story and tips and tricks the more confidence people have to make a change.

In saying that, I always encourage salons to start slowly. Use Paper Not Foil for balayage placement until they feel confident. Everyone’s different – we have salons who completely embrace it and change from tin foil and plastic just like that.

It’s the new colour tool of the future, enjoy everything it has to offer.

What’s next for Paper Not Foil?

Looking after our clients, helping more salons in NZ and AUS make the change to Paper Not Foil, education, and inspiring salons creatively along with expansion into other markets.

When I started this journey I made a goal that in 4 years I would be able to walk into any salon, and 1 in every 5 would have made a change to Paper Not Foil. Then I will know that we’ve made a difference!

Amanda Buckingham is the founder of Paper Not Foil. You can read more about Amanda’s journey here, and contact the Paper Not Foil team on Facebook or Instagram.

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