How can I reuse or recycle “disposable” hair nets?

We’ve had an email from Philip, asking about disposable hair nets:

I work in food production (ready meal factory) and have to wear a hair net whenever I’m on the floor. Some staff have proper hats but the rest of us have to have single use hair nets. Management say it’s cheaper but I think it’s very wasteful. Can they be recycled?

Whenever I get hold of one of them, I keep it to reuse at home – single use, schmingle use – when having a big baking or preserving session. (I’m less bothered about having a completely sterile environment and more about keeping my hair out of my face – and my food.) But if I was getting them every day, that wouldn’t really be an option – and they’re not the sort of thing you could pass on to others.

From what I’ve read, that type of hat is typically made out of polypropylene (older style nets are sometimes nylon) so the actually recycling options are very limited to non-existent. It seems like there many be a possibility of textile reclamation but all the information I can find out it is in the US so I’m not sure if there are any companies over here. As for reuses, they’re a bit like last week’s net curtains but not as strong so not suitable for all the ideas for them – and again, if you’re using them every day, they’re quickly going to mount up so no amount of crafts can solve the problem.

I think the key thing here really is to reduce: if it’s simply a matter of cost, you may want to consider buying your own hat so at least you’re not contributing to the problem – they’re not much and I suspect if you could get some other people involved you might be able to push the price down further by bulk buying (or at least sharing out delivery costs). However, from what I’ve read, there is sometimes an issue about not taking protective clothing outside of the sterile environment so it would be worth checking what arrangements (if any) are in place for handling the existing proper hats.

Anyone got any reuse ideas? Or any suggestions on how Philip can lobby his bosses into doing the right thing and getting reusable hats?

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12 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle “disposable” hair nets?”

  1. Mary Horesh says:

    Sounds a difficult one. If you get enough you could use them for stuffing items, such as cushions or draft excluders, as this is what my mum does with laddered tights.

  2. Ralph Henderson says:

    I use any material like them I can find by doubling and tripling them and putting left-over soap pieces in them, tying them off and then using them for scrubbing.

  3. Alexis says:

    am I wrong in thinking that there are paper ones available – that way it would be recyclable?

  4. Linda says:

    Sounds perfect for protecting sunflower heads from birds as you ripen the seed! +1000 other garden uses:
    If paper -mulch
    If nylon or equivalent -garden ties, mini-greenhouse, mini-frost protectors for over seedling pots.
    I could use some to cover ripening fruit!!
    House uses:
    -if they can be cleaned – plate covers for food at BBQ or equivalent.
    -covers for food/flowers that are drying e.g. peel, lavender, etc.
    -shopping bags for small amounts of fruit and vege that need to be together to be weighed for purchase e.g. mushrooms, etc

    Really, uses depend on what they’re made of and how tight the weave of the ‘fabric’ is.
    More ideas will follow if there is more info to go on..

    • louisa says:

      Thanks for so many suggestions, Linda!

      As well as sunflower heads, I wonder if they’d be heavy-duty enough to protect clumps of berries from birds too…?

      The one I’ve got at the moment is a consistent lightweight mesh but I’ve had more net-like ones in the past – holes 2mm by 4mm ish. They’ve “bouffant” shaped, with a ring of elastic at the rim to hold them in place.

  5. Linda says:

    Ah, perfect to cover brassicas from cabbage white butterflies (if you have those nasties up your end of the world). If the holes look a bit big, using two on top of each other will help.

    I imagine good for stopping flies too.

    Storing different bulbs in the garden shed.

    Hanging garlic in the kitchen.

    Keeping child’s hair out of the paint, playdough, mud-pies, etc.

    Paint with stripes for wacky-hair day at school.

    Hang herbs etc in to dry.

    In danger of repeating myself now!

  6. Or if they’re not you could then make an alternative bird feeder

  7. Linda says:

    Portable salad spinner!

    Sieve for the beach!

  8. Linda says:

    Child’s butterfly net.
    Child’s guppy fishing net.
    Drainage layer at the bottom of flower pots.

    Many nylon ones scrunched together as a bath scourer..

  9. Olia says:

    Cover for strawberry bushes so birds don’t get to them.

  10. Jere says:

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