Photo: Matter of Trust
Matter of Trust, based in San Francisco, converts human hair into mats to counter problems caused by oil spills. Donated hair comes from all over the country and, despite what others might find unnerving, is being used for “green” and sustainable purposes.
Lisa Gautier, CEO of the company that produces these mats, found an alternative way to solve oil spills while protecting our environment. She found out that oil spills from land are absorbed through the use of polypropylene – a plastic material that is produced in manufacturing plants.
Human hair is a valuable resource for the business. Apart from it being a greener alternative, hair absorbs oil five times its weight. The United States has over 900,000 licensed salons – it only means more streams for the company to outsource their primary material. “Our project is to divert this from landfills. It makes much more sense to use a renewable natural resource to clean up oil spill than it does to drill more oil to use to clean up,”
“Our project is to divert this from landfills. It makes much more sense to use a renewable natural resource to clean up oil spill than it does to drill more oil to use to clean up,” said Gautier in an interview.
Oil spills cause danger
Oil spills are a huge problem, and they can cause all sorts of problems. It causes contamination of drinking water, threatens wildlife and the environment in general, adversely affects the economy, and has lasting effects on public health.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that over 175 incidents occurred last year alone. An estimated 10,000 metric tons of oil were spilled by tankers, as well as possibly more unrecorded cases contributing to pollution.
One liter of oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water. Matter Of Trust reported that this year, 513,000 gallons of oil have already been spilled in just two incidents of oil spills – one in Peru and the other in Thailand.
News about oil spills people see in headlines only makes up 5% of the total global oil spill. ”Minor leaks” from vehicles and natural seeps are the major contributors to the volume of spills in the environment.
The production process
The San Francisco warehouse specializes in the creation of mats using custom-built felting machines. The donations from salons, pet groomers and other individuals who send their hair cuttings go through rigorous tests for debris or dirt before being separated into strands which will eventually become mats. For every 500 grams of hair, a two-foot square, one-inch thick mat is made. This single unit can absorb up to 1.5 gallons of oil.
The factory’s mats and booms are donated to volunteers and delivered to partner organizations like the US Air Force.
Over the years, Matter of Trust has created more than 40,000 hair mats and 300,000 booms to help agencies if there are oil spills.
The company is hopeful that more companies and agencies turn to ”green” practices so the world can counter the effects of climate change and human-induced catastrophe.