Oil spill spurs a hair-raising experience

By Ashley Archibald, The Union Democrat May 26, 2010 12:00 am

One person’s trash truly is another person’s treasure.


At least one local salon is doing its part to mop up the oil-spill mess in the Gulf of Mexico by collecting a product usually swept into dustbins or sucked into vacuums — human hair.

 

 

At first, the concept sounds not only foul, but possibly a little sinister. Maybe even Silence of the Lambs, skin-dress kind of sinister. 

 

But, according to Matter of Trust, the organization facilitating the collection of ex-follicles, it’s actually a natural solution to a man-made problem.

 

Matter of Trust, based out of San Francisco, is collecting hair and women’s nylons to create booms that remove oil from water using hair’s natural adsorbent properties.

 

“Adsorbent” means that oil sticks to hair, which anyone who’s gone a day or two without a shampooing knows.   

 

Volunteers along the Gulf are going to one of seven warehouses now full of hair, waiting to be stuffed into the permeable material and deployed by yet more volunteers who are doing their part, albeit informal, to clean up the oil spill threatening the coastline.

 

Salons like On Main, in Sonora, are part of a growing movement of individuals and businesses trying to take part in the effort.

 

Stylist Christina Bonetti heard about the project and began collecting hair for the coast. She sent her first box of clippings, sealed neatly into plastic bags with tape, at the beginning of May.

 

The cut off for donations is June 10.

 

Bonetti sees the donations as an important service.

 

“We’d be crazy not to,” she said.

 

Of course, it’s really a community effort, Bonetti said.

 

“The community really donates their hair to this cause,” she said. “We’re just cutting it and sweeping it up.”

 

Other local salons, like Beauty and the Budget and D Fine Hair Salon, both on Mono Way, are also participating.

 

According to Matter of Trust, 370,000 salons across the United States collect a pound of hair every day. That hair gets flushed away or takes up space in landfills.

 

Matter of Trust President Lisa Craig Gautier said in a press release that in spite of initial interest, British Petroleum, the point company on the spill, will not be using the booms  to assist with cleanup.

 

Though Matter of Trust is coordinating the effort, it is actually an American company called Ottimat that pioneered this hair-raising technology.

 

Phil McCory, a stylist in Huntsville, Ala., came up with the idea after watching footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, according to Ottimat.com.

 

His initial test was with hair collected in his salon and a butchered pair of his wife’s pantyhose. 

 

Since this rudimentary attempt, McCory has created a business out of sustainable oil-removing products.