16 Feb 2024

About 32 tons of hair is thrown out every day in the US and Canada. However there are several and better ways to use this and entrepreneurs are finding out new ways to recycle human hair.

In 2021, Zsofia Kollar, a material designer from Amsterdam started using these wasted strands of hair to weave them into clothing, furniture, and curtains. And more recently, non-profit organizations and companies have been turning these discarded locks into fertiliser; to clean oil spills and even breaking them into essential amino acids for beauty products. Kollar makes yarn with hair. It involves treating the hair with chemicals that help to clean it and change its texture and colour to make it into yarn. Later, this yarn can be dyed into all colours except white and then woven into fabric.

According to Marc André Meyers, a material scientist at the University of California at San Diego, hair has structure. It can stretch upto 70% of the length without breaking and can put back into shape without bending. In 2017, Meyers and his colleagues at UC San Diego and the Swiss research university ETH Zurich studied human hair structure and discovered that it can spring back to its original shape when bent. It can be used to build materials just like steel rebar that gives strength to concrete walls.

Using hair to weave fabric is beneficial to the environment too. It reduces the release of greenhouse gases as wasted hair is kept in landfills and burnt in incinerators. Also, it helps to do away with the consequences of cleaning out the land to grow cotton and drilling oil to make synthetic material. In addition, human hair is free of cost. However, the processing of hair into fabric in small batches is expensive and costs more than polyester, cotton, or wool. However, once this process reaches large scale production, it can be available at a competitive price.

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