Traditionally, oil spills on land are cleaned up with the help of mats made up of polypropylene – a non-biodegradable plastic.
Lisa Gautier and her San-Francisco-based non-profit organization Matter of Trust offer a more eco-friendly solution with the help of mats made of human hair. They receive hair cuttings donated by a number of salons, which they clean and separate. They then use a custom-built felting machine to turn them into mats for soaking up oil spills on land, and booms (long tubes) for spills at sea.
Human hair soaks upto 5x its weight in oil and is an environmental friendly resource that is present abundantly. A two-foot square, one inch thick mat made with 500 grams of hair can collect around 1.5 gallons (5.6 litres) of oil.
Hair mats are single use and can be currently disposed only by incineration or by composting.