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Marinello students join mannequin head recycling effort

"Doll heads to be recycled by school in effort to go green.

Schools across the country are adopting green policies to reduce their carbon footprints. The Marinello Schools of Beauty campus in Redding is one cosmetology school recycling a main source of its hands-on instruction.

Cosmetology students at Marinello treat their mannequin heads like clients — from coloring and chopping hair to applying makeup on the face. Each student receives seven heads to last the duration of the 10-month program. With 120 students starting the program at different times, more than 800 heads can be used throughout a school year.

"Truthfully, they were leaving a bunch of the mannequin heads," said Denise Brown, director of Marinello Redding campus. "They have seven mannequin heads in their kit, so we had a bunch of doll heads in our litter. We collected them because we had nothing to do with them."

In the United States, 500,000 mannequin heads are sold and shipped to cosmetology schools each year. After being used, they head to the landfills where their makeup of Styrofoam and other non-biodegradable products clutter the environment. That's where the Mannequin Head Recycling Project steps in.

"We were really focused to get people to recycle them," said Brandon Jones, project co-founder. "The problem was getting schools across the country to participate. They didn't really see it as something they wanted to give their time to."

Last October, the project started to contact schools along the West Coast. To keep students and schools interested in recycling, the project establishes a $100 scholarship fund for an active student at a contributing school for every 50 heads donated. It also reimburses the school for shipping costs.

"It was more or less of an incentive to recycle the heads instead of throwing them in the trash," Jones said. "We got a lot of California schools to perk their ears because they're getting money for their trash."

The Seal Rock, Oregon-based project reached out to Brown more than two months ago while looking for more California schools to participate in its environmental endeavor.

"All these heads end up in the landfill," Brown said. "If you multiply that with all our 50 schools, and we have schools with over 300 students, it's a lot."

Shana Borden of Red Bluff, who recently graduated from the cosmetology program at Marinello, heard about the recycling project the week before she graduated. She collect three heads from other students and had her own set of seven heads she donated to the project.

"I'm trying to help because it's the right thing to do," Borden said. "I can't see these building up in the landfills with things that can be recycled for future students."

Depending on the assignment, Borden said she and other students use the heads about 10 to 30 times a day.

The recycled mannequin heads experience a new life with the project as novelty figures people can purchase online with the proceeds going to the maintenance of the program and funding more scholarships.

The project has collected 2,000 heads so far from 100 schools in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada. It plans to reach a goal of collecting 50,000 heads, or 10 percent of the number sold each year, through finding more schools willing to donate.

The Marinello Redding campus hopes its 50 sister campuses throughout the country also will participate in the project and recycle their mannequin heads, Brown said. Since April, the school has donated 30 heads to the project."

This article was first published on redding.com.