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Recession Cuts Operation That Uses Hair To Clean Up Oil 119

Posted by samzenpus
from the hair-today-gone-tomorrow dept.
Matter of Trust, a nonprofit that uses human hair scraps to make mats to clean up oil spills, finds itself with 18,000 pounds of hair and nobody to process it. Lisa Gautier, who runs the organization, says that the recession has closed many of the textile makers that produced the mats and the warehouse that stored them. Unfortunately for Lisa the hair keeps piling up. From the article: "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, says Blair Blacker, chief executive of the World Response Group. 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, Mrs. Gautier says."

*

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Recession Cuts Operation That Uses Hair To Clean Up Oil

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    My back is more than hairy enough. Just dunk me in, problem solved.

    Signed,
    CmdrTaco
  • by Mikkeles (698461)

    Have they thought of asking BP to buy a textile mill?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      Who would want to work for BP? They're non-profit, meaning they might be motivated more by helping the environment than greenwashing a terrible company. BP also has a track record of cutting every corner, which obviously led to the current problem, they're probably inclined to spend just as much as they need to squeeze out of liabiltiy, and then they'll get right back to buisiness as usual. Even if BP realized the potential here to develop an effective technology that would prevent them from losing money

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maxume (22995)

        If you can deploy, gather, wring and redeploy in a several hour period (collecting 4,500 gallons each time), it seems like you could soak up a rather significant portion of the 100,000 gallons.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sponge Bath (413667)

          ...deploy, gather, wring and redeploy

          I'm trying to imagine this. I doubt there is automated equipment to do it and doing it by hand would be super nasty. I'm guessing that the quart per pound of hair is in ideal circumstances such as the mat being submerged in pure oil. Throwing a mat into the ocean would probably soak up more water than oil and then sink. Then you would have a bunch of dolphins with greasy toupees.

          • So what you do is weave it into a circle of mats- which are fed into an old-fashioned wringer-washer on the deck of a tanker- and deployed off starboard aft and recovered port aft....just sail it around in circles, using the friction of the wringers to reel in and redeploy the circle of matts.

            If I could come up with this in two minutes, I'm sure a real materials engineer could come up with an actual working solution based on it in a day or two.

            • 1. Talk to L'eggs - acquire off-style hose (save eggs for next years' Easter Bunny Motherlode)
              2. Employ otherwise unoccupied Cajuns - capitalize on their andouille skills
              3. Deploy Mega-Links of hair sausages off the coast
              4. Retrieve, and press with hydraulic press - reclaim watery crude
              5. Repeat.

              No profit readily apparent.

              • by Shotgun (30919)

                Manufacture a long sheet by dispersing the hair between two rolls of cotton fabric. You start with two rolls. Hair is dropped on the bottom one, and another sheet is rolled out on top. The sandwich goes through a bank of sewing machines and is rolled up onto another roll. The resulting composite sandwich could easily be several miles long.

                That's the construction. To use it:

                You have a tanker and several smaller boats. Several rolls of the composite material are mounted on the deck of the tanker. The s

            • "So what you do is weave it into a circle of mats- which are fed into an old-fashioned wringer-washer on the deck of a tanker- and deployed off starboard aft and recovered port aft....just sail it around in circles, using the friction of the wringers to reel in and redeploy the circle of matts.(sic)"

              Combine this with a social network campaign to "Save the Coasts!" that collects human hair on a massive scale. Just think! It would be "cool" to be bald! A statement of commitment to the environment! ...and it'd

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by DeadDecoy (877617)
            Not like fishermen who live off the coast have much to do now that their livelihood is ruined. As of now, there should be a sizeable workforce down in New Orleans with the incentive to actually volunteer to clean up those waters, given that the weather permits them to do so.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mikkeles (698461)

            'I doubt there is automated equipment to do it ...'

            There is; it's called a mangle. There used to be manual, then motorised ones attached to the old, drum-type washing machines.

          • by maxume (22995)

            Yeah, that's why I put in the part you left out.

            But I don't know anything about whether it has been used before (so maybe there is a fairly easy way to deal with it), or anything about how many bodies can be thrown at the problem (If there are thousands of fishermen with nothing better to do, they only have to deal with a few pounds each to start making a difference).

          • Throwing a mat into the ocean would probably soak up more water than oil and then sink. Then you would have a bunch of dolphins with greasy toupees.

            And then they'd sell used cars rusting on the bottom to confused old dolphins for exorbitant amounts of fish, and that wouldn't be good.

          • You're also assuming that you're supposed to throw these in the middle of the fucking ocean. Think about this for more than ten seconds next time.

            You could use these on and around the shores of places affected by oil spills in order to trap it as it washes up on the beaches. Put a lot of mats in large mesh bags (I mean large, like tens of feet long) and then chain these up on beaches. Every so often, change out these bags. Have volunteers wring out the mats, repack the bags, etc.

            I'm not saying this is t
        • If you can deploy, gather, wring and redeploy in a several hour period (collecting 4,500 gallons each time), it seems like you could soak up a rather significant portion of the 100,000 gallons.

          No...it's just wash, rinse, reuse! ;)

      • by Message (303377)

        Except that you could use that 18,000 lbs of hair to soak up 18,000 quarts of oil in a minute... repeat every hour and soak up that 100,000 per day...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by znerk (1162519)

          Except that you could use that 18,000 lbs of hair to soak up 18,000 quarts of oil in a minute... repeat every hour and soak up that 100,000 [gallons] per day...

          Quarts, gallons, what's the difference? (Hint: one is four times as large as the other.)

          Actually, now that I've done the maths... it would only require 16,667 quarts per hour of clean-up to keep pace with a 100,000 gallon per day leak (100,000 gallons = 400,000 quarts; 400,000 quarts divided by 24 hours = 16,666.6(repeating)). Therefore, 18,000 quarts per hour *would* be enough to get ahead of a 100,000 gallon per day leak, not only cleaning the new leakage, but also incrementally cleaning the existing mess

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by geekoid (135745)

        I would wager a dozen donuts that this is a Haliburton fuck up. They where the ones the poured the concrete, and this looks just like the other times they fucked that up.

        Not to say BP is saints.

        4500 gallons a minute for 100 minutes is 4 days worth of oil leakage. I would wager they could also get more hair from around the coutry with a simples 'send your hair to LA. to help the victims of the oil leak.

        • by Praeluceo (528253)

          Why would Los Angeles want people's hair?
          (:

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          There is such a hair drive, saw it on the local news here in Florida. The average hair salon produces about a pound of hair each day, there are close to 400,000 salons in the US. It really won't take long to gather a huge amount of hair. So the bottleneck as according to this article is processing the hair into usable sponge, not gathering the hair.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Mattern (191822)

        Who would want to work for BP? They're non-profit

        Uh, no, they're not. BP is a British limited liability corporation, with stock sold on both the London and New York stock exchanges. Their 2009 annual report states that they made a profit of over $16.5 billion last year.

        • Sorry, I was unclear right there. I mean the place making these hair sponges was non-profit. You're right that BP is about as far as you can get from non-profit.

        • by vegiVamp (518171)
          "They" was referring to the hair people, silly.

          I don't think anyone could mistake BP for a non-profit.
      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        ...which would be typical for a lot of the more "extreme" greenies; they'd rather FEEL like they improve the world than actually improve the world.

        If the grand total sum of working for BP means the world is a better place than not working for them, then do so.

      • BP also has a track record of cutting every corner, which obviously led to the current problem,

        Um, no. We still have no idea what happened, or why none of the several failsafes on the blowout preventer worked.

        While BP are legally liable, it's entirely possible that Halliburton (who were pouring a concrete casing around the well at the time of the accident) could be to blame.

        Although BP deserve to be dragged over the coals for the failure of the platform, and perhaps for not responding in a timely manner, pointing blame for the failure of the BOP is a much more complicated issue, given that such a co

        • While BP are legally liable, it's entirely possible that Halliburton... could be to blame.

          I'd argue that BP was probably not innocent in any shortcuts Halliburton took, and I'm not talking legally. And I see no reason to give BP the benefit of the doubt. But you're right, "obviously" was overstating things.

    • This is exactly what I mean, I see sooooo many rich people sit back and just do nothing, when you could have bill gates throw some good will money, by buying up a textile factory in china, get them to make what is needed in terms of baggies and get someone else rich with a personal jet, to fly it in to get the hair finished for the oil spill.

      Seriously, no one thinks this is an issue, I see not one single super uber rich celebrity jumping in to help save the day here....why??? do they not think this is serio

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well, you know the rest.

  • Dude, I was trying to eat! Neat concept but super gross :P
    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Dude, I was trying to eat! Neat concept but super gross :P

      Serious question, what's so gross about hair?

      • by Urkki (668283)

        Dude, I was trying to eat! Neat concept but super gross :P

        Serious question, what's so gross about hair?

        Maybe you don't, but I bet most people do find cleaning shower drain of long hair and all the attached goo rather gross. Just think of digging that glob of slimy hair out of very unclean looking hole(*). Now imagine a glob of oil-slimy hair mat used for oil spill cleanup. If you don't think that's gross, well, more power to you :-).

        (*) Even if you clean your shower drain daily with brush and chlorine detergent, I'm sure you can imagine cleaning one that hasn't been opened in this millenium, while it's been

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:32PM (#32113602)
    Just dump it all in the Gulf of Mexico... it couldn't hurt!
  • let's see.. 42k gallons spilling each day... the rate at which this could abso... oops.. FAIL.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Orga (1720130)
      actually I FAIL because I learned math in the us. you could lay down all 18,000 lbs and collect 4,500 gallons in an hour, making this an actually feasible total of 108k gallons per day, minus wring out time.
      • Actually it's 1 gallon per MINUTE per 4 lb hair. Assuming you could collect 4500 gallons in a minute, and wring it out in 9 minutes, you have

        4500 gal / 10 min, which is 648,000 gallons per day.

        This should be a national effort. The more hair available, the less time needed for reuse and more area covered per unit time.

        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          So... we need to send more hair? That's what I'm reading. Into the mail it goes, I'll grow more.

      • by SomeJoel (1061138)
        The bigger fail is that the reuse is capped at 100. That means that there is an upper limit of 450000 gallons before the hair becomes useless, at any rate. If the current leak is 100,000 gallons/day, even under ideal circumstances this solution could only soak up 4.5 days worth of output.
        • by TheMeuge (645043)

          Better than nothing, no?

        • by OldHawk777 (19923) *

          Just wash rinse and repeat... %~P

        • Obviously you missed this part of the article, seems she has 100K lbs more ready to ship to her besides what she has in her storage, so she has about a months worth. If she could find a weaver, this could potentially work well...seems BP could open up one of those out of business textile mills and get some weaving done. "In June, Mrs. Gautier told the hair salons in her network to hang on to their hair for a while. There's at least 100,000 pounds waiting to be shipped, she says."
    • by Dragee (881700) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:53PM (#32114072)
      Clearly, this shouldn't be considered if it doesn't provide a comprehensive solution to the problem. It's the same reason we shouldn't be expanding solar, wind, and nuclear power generation in unison...we should definitely wait for just one technology that will serve all our needs, and not attack issues with a multi-pronged approach.
  • by ravenscar (1662985) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:50PM (#32114002)

    could get a little hairy.

  • by Nick Number (447026) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:53PM (#32114076) Homepage Journal

    In defiance of logic, our cats seem to shed several times their own volume in hair every week.

    Using it to clean up oil spills would be more useful than having it decorate our carpets and furniture.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So go toss your cat in the ocean already.

    • It's possible that cat hair is different enough from human hair so as to not give it the oil-absorbing properties, sure. But I think that's a bit moot; the problem isn't them getting enough hair. At least according to the summary, the problem is that they don't have enough people to PROCESS the human hair they get.

      So, sorry, shedding season still doesn't have that much an upside. Better luck next time. :-)

    • by Nick Number (447026) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:27PM (#32114838) Homepage Journal

      Ah, the organization's page [matteroftrust.org] mentioned by an AC below [slashdot.org] answers my question.

      Pet owners: Fur, horse hair and wool is fine. Fur is curly which helps more in making mats. It does seem that human hair has less natural oil and is more efficient in soaking up oil. So, we are finding the sweet spot of ratio fur to hair! Pet hair doesn't have to be shampooed - but we ask that it not be filthy, please.

      I think we just found a new cause to donate to.

    • by macraig (621737)

      Cat hair isn't hair: it's fur. Don't ask me what the difference is, I just know it's classified as fur.

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        The difference is pretty much just linguistic. Fur refers to the structure on animals, while hair refers to the same structure on people (and sometimes animals). They're both made of keratin, and while the structure does differ, it differs just as much (or little) between any two non-human species as it does between humans and any other mammalian species.

        http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-hair-and-fur.htm [wisegeek.com]

        • by macraig (621737)

          The difference might not be just linguistic if "fur" lacks the specific structure described in TFA. Fingernails are made of keratin, too, but they don't have anything else in common with hair.

    • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:56PM (#32115346) Homepage

      Except then I'd be allergic to the ocean you inconsiderate clod.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Sure, but getting all those cats to the site of the oil spill would be like... well, like herding cats!
      • don't you mean:

        Sure, but getting all those cats to the site of the oil spill would be like... well, like herding programmers!

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The thousand and two use for a dead cat.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:56PM (#32114150)
    If you think this massive oil spill didn't have to happen, well, you're right.

    Oh, and BP bears responsibility for Exxon Valdez too.

    http://www.gregpalast.com/slick-operator-the-bp-ive-known-too-well/?print=1 [gregpalast.com]

    .
  • Old article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:59PM (#32114222)

    The article is from last year. I fould a later article that actually has information relevant to the recent oil spill here: http://www.wmtw.com/mostpopular/23473933/detail.html

    The actual organization's website, which Slashdot fails to link to, is at http://www.matteroftrust.org/programs/hairmatsinfo.html

  • Especially if it's McFly's hair.
  • Ummm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by denmarkw00t (892627) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:28PM (#32114864) Homepage Journal

    I just listened to a story on NPR with one of the head guys from Matter of Trust, and he mentioned nothing to this effect. In fact, he said there are warehouses all over the country helping store this, they use used stockings for the packaging, and from the sound if there are about 450,000 lbs of hair headed to the Gulf Coast right now. So who's right here? The guy on the radio sounded pretty calm, if not even stoked, about this whole thing, but TFA seems to say that Matter of Trust has no one and no way to help.

  • I've got an older car that drips a bit of oil, where can I buy one of these things to clean up my garage?

    Oh if some of the profits go to make more of these to give away thats fine with me.

  • ... and clean up this here nasty oil spill.

  • I saw this on the news 20 years ago when I was a kid. It's amazing how well it works.
  • in the news all at once. At least, not off the top of my head.
  • Talk to William Shatner, his toupee should be enough to clean it all up.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      This isn't a job for a single toupee... this is a job for Shatner's entire toupee collection!
  • make the BP CEO do it as a jail diversion!!!

  • If we use those hair mats, not only will we have an oil spill, we'll have a greasy hair spill. The gulf coast would henceforth be known as Jersey Shore, South.
  • The story about the recession and its impact on "Matter of Trust" is dated August 10, 2009. Hardly "news" at this stage nine months later. I would give far more credence to the charity's own web site, which seems not to indicate a warehouse problem.

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