Innovation That Matters

Hair from salons used to clean up oil spills

Nonprofit & Social Cause

While watching the coverage of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, hair stylist Phil McCrory was struck by how rapidly otters’ fur absorbed oil. He soon began testing how much oil he could absorb with the cast-off clippings from his salon, and voilà, the Oil Spill Hair Mat was created. McCrory teamed up with the environmentally-driven fiscal sponsor Matter of Trust, and set up shop in a San Francis warehouse. Following the hair mat’s inception in 2000, thousands of hair salons now donate their excess hair to Matter of Trust to be recycled into absorbent mats. And with salons collecting on average one pound a day, that’s a lot of hair mats. Hairdressers signing up as donors are asked to cover shipping costs, compensated by the happy knowledge that they’re helping clean up oil spills. The program also accepts other natural fibres such as dog fur from groomers, horse hair, waste wool, and even nylon stockings that can be filled with hair and used to contain spills. Not-for-profit Matter of Trust is developing other ways to reuse man-made and natural surplus, too: since launching the hair mats a few years ago, they’ve worked with McCrory to explore the use of hair as a natural fertiliser. While the concept might not be entirely new, its combination of eco-action and corporate generosity is definitely of the moment, as is the organisation’s focus on creating green collar jobs. (Related: Garbage into gold, via worm poop.) Spotted by: Wendy Rosenoff



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