Hair mats used in oil spill clean up, like all traditional clean up materials are incinerated or landfillled by hazmat teams.  In 2002, Matter of Trust and Fungi.com joined forces to do lab research on if fungus could breakdown mats made from human hair soaked in toxic oil. The goal was to remediate the oil spill waste and create landscape-grade compost.

“The roots of mushrooms, called mycelium, produce enzymes that unlock wood fibers, which are composed of strings of carbon-hydrogen molecules in the form of cellulose and lignin.  Most petroleum products are held together by similar molecular bonds.  This study tests if mushroom mycelium breaks these bonds, and then reconstructs the oil into carbohydrates, fungal sugars, that make up the mushroom’s physical structures.” Paul Stamets, Fungi.com

In 2007, we decided to test this in the field when an oil spill occurred in SF Bay.  The Cosco Busan container ship hit the Bay Bridge and spilled 53,569 gallons (202,780 liters ) of bunker fuel which came ashore within hours onto Ocean Beach.  

PROCESS

See our SF Oil Spill Remediation Project Overview

Fungi + Oily Hair Treatability Study Part I

Fungi + Oily Hair Treatability Study Part II

Thermophilic Composting of Oily Hair Study Part III

Vermiculture (worms) Composting of Oily Hair Study Part IV

Conclusion:  This is a labor of love.  In the Amazon where there are people living with oil pits that resulted from pipeline leak debris left there for decades, we believe this is a worthwhile and empowering solution.  For shoreline cities with little landfill space or time, this is impractical and hazardous waste is better incinerated for energy in a closed system that takes care for particulates.

 


Date: 2012-03-13


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