Human hair swatches are frequently used in the hair care industry to test product efficacy and color deposition; however, after testing, they may have an additional purpose—as human hair is being collected for oil spill cleanup.
It is well known in the hair care industry that hair attracts oil from the scalp. This fact was used by Phil McCory, a hair stylist, who patented the OttiMat after watching the effect that the 1989 Valdez oil spill had on the fur of otters.
The mat is comprised of 99% recycled human hair and 1% polypropylene skrim. The mats reportedly were used in the 2007 San Francisco Beach oil spill cleanup.
Also collecting hair for oil spill cleanup is non-profit organization Matter of Trust, who is stuffing the hair into tubes (booms) made of recycled nylons. The booms reportedly can absorb nearly five quarts of oil.
In response to the oil spill in the Gulf, Matter of Trust has begun manufacturing their hair tubes in 19 donated warehouses. In addition to hair, the company accepts fur and other natural fibers such as waste wool, alpaca fleece, horse hair and feathers. For donation information, visit the company's Web site.