Hair Mats Made from Upcycled Human Hair, Fur and Fleece Are Cleaning Up Oil Spills
Did you know that getting your hair cut, bringing Fido to the groomer, visiting your local farm, or doing laundry could have a direct impact on the cleanup of a major or minor oil spill? Plus, these tasks could ultimately save marine life, habitats, and plants! If you’re scratching your head as to why, well therein lies your answer – right from the top of your head!
Apparently, human hair clippings from hair salons, animal fur from pet groomers, fleece, wool, and feathers from farms, and laundry lint can be upcycled into felted fiber hair mats and “hair booms” that aid in the cleanup of oil spills. Hair is super effective at cleaning up oil as it repels water and can collect contaminants. These natural, cost-effective, and renewable products are made by hand and weaved together by machines. They soak up petrochemicals in storm drains, wells, filtration systems, rivers, and oceans.
While hair mats are ideal for surface area oil spill clean-up, the aforementioned “hair booms” are effective in another way. They’re made of hair and fiber that’s stuffed into recycled burlap sacks or pantyhose. They look like stuffed sausages and can “sandbag” and protect coves and beaches.
This hairy initiative was developed by Matter of Trust, which established the Clean Wave program. In 1999, its founder and president, Lisa Gautier, teamed up with Phil McCrory, a hairstylist, and inventor from Alabama. McCrory was washing his client’s oily hair while watching coverage of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. That’s when he realized that hair could be used to soak up oil spills! Then he had it tested and approved!
Clean Wave assisted in the San Francisco Cosco Busan and the Mexican Gulf Coast BP Deepwater Horizon oil spills, as well as smaller-scale oil spills. It has also helped remotely in Korea, France, Galapagos, Mauritius, and with oil pits in the Amazon. It also works with the Air Force and municipalities on motor oil runoff into storm drains from runways and streets. Unfortunately, hair mats and hair booms aren’t the main sources of oil spill cleanups. Instead, oil skimmers, fires, and chemicals are used but can be dangerous to human health. Hopefully, this changes in the near future!
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