Human hair helps mop up oil spills

A project in France is trialling the use of human hair to mop up oil pollution in oceans. Coiffeurs Justes plans to stuff 40 tonnes of human hair into nylon tubes that will absorb ocean pollution.

After a successful trial in the port of Cavalaire-sur-Mer, 40 tonnes of human hair is destined to help mop up oil spills, writes an article from AFP. The hair will be stuffed into floating tubes to line harbours.

“Hair is lipophilic, which means it absorbs fats and hydrocarbons,” said Thierry Gras, a hairdresser and founder of the project Coiffeurs Justes, in the article.

The project, which hails from Brignoles in southern France, still needs approval, but plans are to start large-scale production before the end of the year. The hair waste is sourced from hairdressers in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg – Gras says that each hairdresser on average produces about 29 kilogrammes of hair waste every year.

Unemployed people and school dropouts are paid to make the absorbant tubes, according to the article, while Gras plans to reinvest half of the sale price of the tubes in the employment centre.

Gras told AFP that the tubes “can be used in case of a serious oil spill” but the idea “is to remove micro-pollution on a continuous basis”. He continued: “The traditional method (using large sponges made from polymer) are products that are not reusable and which we discard.” The hair sponges, on the other hand, are washable and reusable.

Photo credit: ideum, flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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