Hair to the rescue as oil spills blight coastlines

Within the city of Brignoles in southeast France, 40 tonnes of human hair are stacked in a warehouse — they’re the discarded locks despatched in by salons underneath a recycling scheme.

After a profitable trial within the close by port of Cavalaire-sur-Mer, the hair is destined to be stuffed into nylon stockings to make floating tubes that may line harbours to mop up ocean oil air pollution.

“Hair is lipophilic, which suggests it absorbs fat and hydrocarbons,” stated Thierry Gras, a hairdresser in Saint-Zacharie close to Brignoles and founding father of the venture Coiffeurs Justes (Honest Hairdressers).

Awaiting the inexperienced gentle from labour inspectors and anti-pollution officers, Gras hopes to start out large-scale manufacturing of the tubes earlier than year-end and so assist struggle towards air pollution.

He plans to promote the forearm-length tubes, which might every take in eight occasions their weight in oil, for €9 (about R179) every.

On the Brignoles warehouse, paper baggage are crammed with 2kg of hair, waste from about three 300 hairdressing salons in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. The luggage are then despatched to a different website a couple of streets away, the place previously unemployed individuals and faculty dropouts are paid to make the absorbent tubes. Gras plans to reinvest half of the sale worth of the tubes within the employment centre.

Every hairdresser on common produces about 29kgs of hair waste yearly, most of it ending up within the garbage bin, based on Gras.

Gras stated his urge for food for preventing air pollution was woke up in childhood by the 1978 stranding of the Amoco Cadiz tanker off France’s Brittany coast. For maybe the primary time ever, human hair was employed within the effort to mop up the greater than 200 000 tonnes of spilled oil.

When he grew up and have become a hairdresser, Gras stated he was shocked to find there was no recycling facility for hair waste — which may also be used as fertiliser, isolation materials, concrete reinforcement or in water filtration.

Gras thus got here up with the thought of making hair-filled oil absorbers and, in 2015, based his affiliation.

The tubes, Gras stated, “can be utilized in case of a severe oil spill, such because the one in Mauritius just lately, however the thought right here is to take away micro-pollution on a steady foundation” in ports.

The Japanese-owned MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off Mauritius on 25 July, spilling greater than 1 000 tonnes of oil right into a protected marine park boasting mangrove forests and endangered species.

In an effort to assist, Mauritians minimize their hair and hairdressers from overseas contributed too. ABC Information reported that Sustainable Salons in Sydney, Australia, despatched 10 tonnes of hair to Mauritius. The organisation recycles waste from salons and had 28 tonnes in storage in case of a spill within the Nice Barrier Reef.

Mauritians made booms stuffed with straw and hair to behave as sponges that suck up the oil.

In response to a Nasa examine printed in 1998, 11 340kg of hair ought to have the ability to take in about 644 000 litres of spilled oil.

And hair is cheaper than artificial sponges, which themselves create waste.

In Cavalaire, a dozen tubes are in use, serving as a pilot for the harbour venture.

Philippe Leonelli, the mayor of the seaside city and chief govt of its port, is completely happy to have a brand new technique for absorbing the oil leaked from the engines of some 1 100 boats docked within the port.

“The normal technique (utilizing giant sponges produced from polymer) are merchandise that aren’t reusable and which we discard” after use, he stated. The hair sponges, then again, are washable and reusable “about 10 occasions”.

“We’re all in the hunt for reusable strategies in order to not overburden our territory and our land” with waste product storage, added the mayor.

A number of river and ocean ports in France have already proven an curiosity in buying the tubes, stated Gras. — AFP