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Recession Cuts Operation That Uses Hair To Clean Up Oil 119

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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  • Re:BP? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:48PM (#32113948)

    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 to lawsuits in future oil spills (the only way such an acquisition would be anything more than for show), they'd turn it into a depressing work environment kicking out all the current employees.

    Anyway, I'm guessing the scale of the problem is beyond putting hair on it to solve the problem. 18,000 pounds of hair which can theoretically soak up 18,000 quarts of oil in a minute, or 4,500 gallons, that isn't much compared to the 100,000 gallons leaking out per day.

  • by Nick Number ( 447026 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:53PM (#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.

  • by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:56PM (#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. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:58PM (#32114196)

    So go toss your cat in the ocean already.

  • Re:BP? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:15PM (#32114590)
    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.
  • by Nick Number ( 447026 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:27PM (#32114838) Homepage Journal

    Ah, the organization's page [] mentioned by an AC below [] 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 Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:35PM (#32114950) Journal

    I don't want it mutating into a giant killer toupee.

  • Re:BP? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:41PM (#32115064)

    '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.

  • Re:EEeesshh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:12PM (#32115596) Homepage

    Doubtful. []

  • Re:BP? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by znerk ( 1162519 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:42PM (#32116078)

    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. Of course, this assumes a constant rate of clean-up, with no room for inaccuracy/mishaps, no "half-soaked" hairs, 24 hours per day, etc. Assuming (not sure where the figure actually came from, quite possibly the linked article which I haven't read yet) that you could soak 18,000 quarts per minute, clean-up could be a snap - according to my maths, it would take less than 4 hours to clean up 100,000 gallons of spill using this method (in a perfect world).

    Feel free to check my maths, I hold no illusions as to my perfection in any department.

    Oh, and get these people some boats so they can deploy.

    What is the difference between "in theory" and "in practice"?
    Well... in theory, there isn't any.

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