Gulf Oil Spill: A Hairy Problem

The April 20 explosion of Deepwater Horizon rig has spilled an estimated 6 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As BP PLC works to stop the leak, they have enlisted an unlikely partner in an organization that uses human hair and pet fur to clean up the mess.

Hair Booms produced by volunteers in Alabama. Courtesy

Matter of Trust, an environmental group out of California, is collecting hair from salons and barber shops and putting it in nylon stockings. These “booms” of hair, feathers, fur, wool and alpaca fleece are then used to soak up the oil.

“We, at Matter of Trust, are thrilled that BP has contacted us to discuss deployment of the donated booms,” says President of Matter of Trust Lisa Gautier in a news release. “This mobilization orchestrating international natural fiber recycling systems to help the Gulf Spill has taken less than three weeks. The massive, rapid response to help the environment has been phenomenal.”

The effort to clean up the sludge threatening coast land along the Gulf is international one, and the Matter of Trust website says they have received donations from nylons and stuffing material from the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and more.

A pound of hair can absorb up to a quart of oil in one minute and can be reused up to 100 times, according to This system works better than synthetic options and is eco friendly to boot. Synthetic oil absorbers are harmful and release toxins into the environment.

Every year in the United States, 60 million pounds of human hair go into landfills, according to, the website of a company that makes hair mats to absorb oil. The idea of using hair to absorb oil was first popularized by Alabama hairdresser Phil McCory in 1989. He took his idea to NASA and later invented the OttiMat.

Matter of Trust has temporarily donated warehouse sites along the Gulf Coast set up to handle donations coming in to help with the oil spill. Go to to sign up to help with the current oil spill crisis.

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Tags: BP PLC, Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Spill, hair booms, Matter of Trust, Oil spill

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