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Hair Clippings For Oil Spill Clean-up: Helping The Environment


Image of Cosco Buscan Oil Spill Ocean Beach Over 500 concerned citizens used oil spill hairmats to help clean the spill

Matter of Trust Website All Rights Reserved.

Did you know your hair is excellent natural material for mopping up oil spills and helping to save the environment?

Indeed, human hair is naturally designed for the job because tresses have lots of little nooks and tiny crannies that make it easy for oil to cling to.

Thus your own hair is excellent natural material for mopping up oil spills and doing good for the planet.

Hair Is Very Good At Soaking Up Oil

Hair is good at soaking up oil because, up close, the strands are shaped like a palm tree with scalelike cuticles.

"Drops of oil naturally cling inside those cuticles" according to Blair Blacker, chief executive of the World Response Group.

Lisa Gautier, 42, founded and runs Matter of Trust in 1998, a San Francisco nonprofit organization which recycles human hair scraps into small mats that can be used to clean up oil spills. She explained "a pound of hair can pick up one quart of oil in a minute, and it can be wrung out and reused up to 100 times."

Note: Matter of Trust has done an amazing job with human hair clippings to help clean up the environment but they also have other impressive charitable based programs to help to do good for people and the planet. It is a very worthwhile organization always in need of contributions and assistance.

Oil Spill In Galapagos Islands - Collecting Hair For Mats

Image of Blue Footed Bobby Galapogos Islands

Image by M Nota All Rights Reserved.

In 2000 Lisa became aware of news reports about how the Galapogos Islands were having problems cleaning up an oil spill. She wondered why hair mats weren't being used to help with the spill since they are so eco-friendly.

Hair mats made from human hair scraps were invented in the 1990s by Alabama hairstylist Phil McCrory.

The mother of three whose husband is an executive at Apple Inc., decided to make her own hair mats. With Mr. McCrory's assistance, she started a network of salons to donate hair to the hair mat cause.

Every few months after accumulating enough hair, Lisa sent the locks to local textile manufacturers that used needle-punch methods. Textile machines pounds the hair with fast-moving needles that tangle up the locks to create a fiber with the look and feel of felt.

Collecting Hair Trimmings From 16,000+ Salons

As the number of salons sending hair trimmings to Matter of Trust grew to over 16,000 salons, hair mats were made at a cost of $1 to $4 to make the hair mats that were used to soaked up oil slicks everywhere from car repair shops to the San Francisco Bay in 2007.

Hair Clippings On Floor

Image by IceKitty37 All Rights Reserved.

A Korean tanker crashed into the San Francisco Bay Bridge spilling over 53,000 pounds of oil. Volunteers were supplied with the hair mats from Matter of Trust to clean up the spill.

Byron Cleary, a San Francisco surfer and engineer who helped lead the 2007 cleanup efforts said "There's nothing more effective" than a hair mat."

He explained "there would be a dribble of oil right there on the tide line, and you set the mat down, pull it up, and the oil is gone."

The San Francisco oil cleanup put Mrs. Gautier's mats in the spotlight. Soon, the number of hair donors jumped to 34,000 from 7,000.

She began getting as much as 5,000 pounds of hair each month.

Recession Putting A Kink In The Hair Clipping Collection

Image of Hair Clippings

Image by Vanisher All Rights Reserved.

In an article in the August 10th issue of The Wall Street Journal reporter Ryan Knutson noted that due to the current recession Lisa Gautier is up to her eyeballs in over 18,000 pounds of hair.

The textile mills which produced the eco-friendly hair mats as well as the warehouse that stored all the finished mats have been shut down due to the economy.

Even more challenging new for Matter of Trust? What to do with the dozens of packages of donated hair scraps which continue to arrive every week.

Unfortunately with no textile mills to make the hair mats, no warehouse to store the already created mats and no location to store the donated scraps, Lisa Gautier and her family are literally up to their eyeballs in hair.

Request To Temporarily Stop Sending Hair

In June of 2009 Lisa sent a request for all the thousands of salons who regularly sent the hair clippings to the hair mat efforts to temporarily hold onto their hair stashes.

Indonesian Hair Clipping

Image by NinaFish All Rights Reserved.

With no location to make the mats or store the hair Lisa had no other choice. She estimates that 100,000 pounds of hair is waiting to be shipped to Matter of Trust once the current challenges are solved.

Meanwhile as Ms. Gautier searches for solutions she is storing approximately 18,000 pounds of hair which piled up since the hair mat production went into hiatus due to the textile mill closings.

Please Temporarily Hold Onto Hair Donations

If you are one of the many salons that didn't get the word about the current recession related challenges of making hair mats, please hold onto your clippings until Matter of Trust can find a new solution and restart the manufacturing of the donated hair mats.

Matter of Trust can also use help in the form of donations for their many charitable efforts. To find out how to donate to this amazing cause check out the Matter of Trust website located at:

For a list of Matter of Trusts many worthwhile programs check out:

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