Our ecological public charity concentrates on
Manmade Surplus, Natural Abundance,
Clean Wave FAQ
I want to donate hair/fur/fiber. Why don’t you just give me a $%&$#@ address?!
We ask you to register and go through the posting and matching process rather than just providing an address because of the sheer volume of donations that we receive. Humanity is wonderfully generous! Our volunteers and staff sort and channel many tons of fiber to the warehouses that can accept them. Our charity has (and partners with other) depots. The cost of space to store the hair, fur, fleece… and to produce the mats are all part of a sustainable system that we need to keep in balance. We cannot overload one depot, while neglecting others.
For smaller, occasional donations such as ponytails, please BROWSE WISHES in the hair, fur, and fiber department to look for potential recipients. Also, when there are big oil spills we can send out alerts to donors in the area when it’s an emergency. Please send us your feed back on this, we always love to hear from you and get suggestions!
What kinds of donations do you accept?
• Ponytails 3 inches or longer. Please shampoo before cutting and put hair in an envelope. Do not secure hair with rubber bands.
• Boxes – Most salons and groomers simply reuse shampoo delivery boxes and line them with a garbage bag (ideally compostable). The boxes must be debris free meaning: nothing sharp, no cigarettes, food, metals, etc. Your box contents will end up in classrooms, felting machines, and natural habitats (rivers, oceans).
• Long braids (10 inches or longer), please also check out these other options: Healing Children with Hair Loss, Wigs for Kids, and Pantene Beautiful Lengths.
• Loose Hair, Fur, Wool, and Fleece. Hair and fur clippings can be any length. Fleece and wool can be any grade. Other acceptable fiber donations can be posted: Feathers, laundry lint, old woolen socks, etc….
• Emergency Hair Booms (sausages). Booms (aka sausages, waddles…) are hair stuffed into clean, donated nylon stocking legs. Booms are sent directly to a spill for immediate use. We only accept booms during emergencies and when there are hazardous material removal systems in place.
• Rope (⅛-¼ inch thickness), Burlap Sacks, Nylon Stockings, Shrimp Bags… These supplies are used for containing hair and booms to protect beaches and string across piers during oil spill clean up.
We accept both large and small donations. When posting your gift on Excess Access please specify the quantity and unit size of your donations (bags, boxes, pallet, truck loads, etc…).
Does hair float?
Yes hair floats – that is why it goes down your shower drain last and sometimes block the drains. Hair mats are designed to float and hair booms are also designed to stack and protect beaches. Oil and hair both float, but dirt and seaweed can weigh booms down. Ideally, oil spill clean up absorbent materials are not left, but are retrieved immediately. Remember that even steel floats when it is in the right shape – ships are made of steel.
Are hair mats safe for the environment?
Hair mats are non-toxic to the environment unlike petroleum based mats and booms. Oil companies drill oil and use oil to make oil based products that clean up oil spills. We are offering an efficient, renewable, natural eco-alternative to that cycle.
Why divert natural fibers from the waste stream?
Hair, fur, fleece and feathers soak up oil extremely quickly. So quickly that it is dangerous for wildlife to be near an oil spill, their fur and feathers get coated before they can escape. We take advantage of the adsorbing properties of hair and fibers in the form of hair mats and booms.
What happens to oily hair mats once they’ve been used?
Conventionally all oil spill waste goes to landfills or is incinerated. We provide volunteers, public works, and hazardous material teams with clean mats and booms. Our organization has successfully demonstrated the remediation of bunker fuel oiled mats during an 18 month program in 2007-2009 by combining the use of fungal and bacterial inoculates, thermophilic composting, and vermicomposting. This remediation process, though successful, was costly in time, labor, and space. We have learned that we can cut labor cost significantly by incorporating ventilation tubes into the compost pile. Additionally, the oily hair mats must be free of all dispersants, like Corexit, a chemical used by oil companies to break up the oil and make it sink. Corexit turned out to be an endocrine disrupter and really bad for humans.
How can I buy hair mats?
Hair mats are available for sale on our online store.
What happens to my hair when you get it?
Matter of Trust uses hair, fur, fleece donations in several ways. Fibers are felted into mats on site or at partner felting sites. Fibers are stuffed into sheaths such as donated nylon stockings or burlap coffee bean bags to make booms. Mats, booms, and loose fibers are used in classroom oil spill clean up demos. Mats are used by has mat teams in oil spills clean up and by public works departments in storm drain cages to keep motor oil drip spills out of waterways. Booms are best for encircling spills or “sandbagging” a beach to keep sands clean.
Can hair mats be reused?
Hair mats can be wrung out and reused many times. However, we have found that because of dirt, seaweed, rocks and other issues, public works and hazardous materials (Haz Mat) teams rarely choose to reuse mats or booms. This is all the more reason to have these oil spill clean up materials be made out of renewable, natural, non-toxic materials that can be composted.
What are the properties of hair that help in an oil spill clean-up? How much of it do you have to use?
It’s the surface area of all the hair – and the nooks an crannies along the hair. The oil coats it all. Hair is adsorbent not absorbent. Hair doesn’t swell up like a sponge, instead the oil coats all the surface area of the hair.
How do you prepare the hair? Especially when linked to the volume and extent of an oil spill?
Here are some Youtube videos on that:
YouTube on How To Make A Boom – in an emergency, hundreds of volunteers can easily stuff thousands of booms and boom, waddle or “sandbag” with walls of boom to protect a beach or ecosystem.
Here are some more:
EPA letter to Phil McCrory Oil Spill Hair Mat inventor
How effective is the technique especially when you have a large volume of oil?
Hair soaks up fast. It bobs just below the waterline. Fur and fleece bob and float on top of the waterline so getting a mixture of booms is helpful.
Does it also depend on the type of oil spill it it is? The grade of petroleum?
Bunkerfuel is heavy – and dries into tar balls. Jet fuel is very light. Gasoline and used motor oil are midrange. There is dirt and sand and life in water so booms will get weighed down even though oil and hair both naturally float. So removing oily hair booms quickly and adding floating assistance is key.
What about oceanic conditions? This must be an important factor? What about oil spills that are far from shore? Does topography near the coast play a role?
We find the best way to work with oil spills is to:
1) See if there are government or public works people who want more supplies – especially if donated. They may prefer to let the public volunteer doing hands on positive work by making booms in a safe space than having to deal with the public getting into the toxic oil and in the way of official clean up crews.
2) If not, find private areas that are being effected – boat owners, private docks, etc.
3) What you are probably experiencing is very common with high profile oil spills In the US we have a lot of lawyers that get involved in oil spills quickly so safety issues often smash agains philanthropic impulses to help the environment. Making hair boom stock piles to give to haz mat teams to use can be a win win.
Can it be used much later after a spill has occurred? Or is time critical?
Time is crucial when dilution is an issue. There are oil spills in the Amazon jungle that have been there for 25 years. In an ocean oil spreads fast. In the US, and many other countries, companies are only required to show best efforts to clean up 5% of a spill. That means they don’t even have to clean up 5%, they just have to show that they tried their best. This is because oil spreads out fast and thin in water and it becomes near impossible to clean more then that %. 1 quart can spread out rapidly over 2 acres of ocean. Heavy oil sinks to the bottom eventually and the lightest oil shooting out of the high pressure BP Horizon went stratospheric, so it all depends. Oil can also wash up for days or collect into plumes that look like dark serpents following warmer streams within the ocean. I saw a lot of that in the BP Gulf spill.
And what about when oil changes composition based on environmental factors?
In cold water it can get hard and tar ball like. It often washes up in silver dollar size blobs those are easy when moist to dab up with hair mats or even by rolling booms along the sands, just make sure they have thick tights and not running nylons. A lot of hair booms in burlap sacks will collect oil washing up and you don’t have to worry so much about the integrity of the nylons. Booms are really solid and the surface area is inside so the oil mixed in the water waves will get in there but mats are more efficient as wipers.
And after chemical dispersants have been used?
Oh don’t get me started on dispersants. They create foams and all kinds of weirdness.
Could you give me (global) instances/cases where hair-for-oil-mopping-up has been used?
There are over 2600 oil spills a year on average. Most famously, we were involved in the San Francisco Cosco Busan oil spill and the Mexican Gulf Coast BP Horizon. We’ve helped remotely with spills in Korea, France, Galapagos… and oil pits in the Amazon. We work with the air force and municipalities on motor oil run-off into storm drains off runways and streets because 50% of all oil in our waterways comes from used motor oil drips. 1 quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of fresh water. Major oil spills in the press are actually a small % of the oil that harm the environment, but they’re useful for awareness! Millions of gallons of oil bubble up naturally under the oceans every year.
When was the idea first thought of?
During Exxon Valdez (see above)
How would you deal with an oil spill? What are the preparations to be done?
We have set up a website called ExcessAccess.org for donations and wishes for hair and supply donations. It’s free and anyone anywhere can use it. If you want to -we will highlight your wishes on the homepage and our facebook etc. and with our international partners.
– Try to work with authorities and remember that they are very stressed and under a lot of pressure and don’t like this any more than you do. They may be afraid of law suits and public mobilizations may scare them.
– Find private places that do need public help – private beaches, docks etc. all of nature is connected and doesn’t know or care about what’s private and what’s public.
– Have the press show what is working – sometimes there can be lines on beaches – hair vs. no hair.
– Ask for help with containment materials. Nylons, tights, burlap sacks, crab bags, more ideas from local surplus – welcome any ideas. Aim for natural or reusable materials when possible.
– Get donations of tyvek suits and gloves – as many as you can. It’s a messy business.
– Set up a separate tarps, bags or cans for disposing of the tyvek suits and gloves and nylons, tights, pool noodles or any floatation assistance, rope, burlap bags, crab bags…
– Keep the oily hair separate – it may be useful for legal reasons to have photos of it and testing of it and it can be (laboriously) composted or burned as a fuel source.
Do volunteers, clean-up crew have to be trained?
See our videos on booming. Each location is different about actually oil spill clean up.
Has this technique been approved by (global) environmental agencies? And certification? What about testing in research laboratories?
The fiber materials and the mat (and “pillows”) have been tested and were patented but are now free domain. You can test yourself very easily we do in schools all the time. Our youtubes show all this and the documentation is on the links above. Currently the US Air Force and Army Corps of Engineers are working with us on more testing for best containment – funny – they’re not keen on the reused nylon stockings 🙂
How cost-effective is it? When compared to other methods? And I go back to the point of the amount/extent or volume of the oil spill.
Well when donated and volunteer it’s free. We are working as I said to create a model green business that can be replicated anywhere because the carbon footprint of shipping recycled hair clippings to the felting station and then back out to the spills or storm drains becomes a bit silly. Everywhere has salons and pet groomers so that fiber should be processed and used locally. We are open sourcing all of the information, budgets., challenges, successes the whole thing and will be setting up a starter loan fund as well. It doesn’t make sense to drill oil to use oil to make oil based products to clean up oil spills. I should say, that cycle only makes sense to oil companies. To the rest of us, growing the renewable resource solution in front of our eyes – natural fibers is the best answer.
What about disposal? And recycling?
I’ll first address recycling the hair mats and booms by saying, they’re better for 1 use although hair is strong and they can be wrung out, its just that there is usually so much dirt, sand, seaweed etc. it becomes a messy and unnecessary business because hair is a renewable resource and you can make more than enough usually. Each time, like with any towel or sponge, it will become a little less efficient than the first time.
In the US Haz mat teams are usually legally responsible for all oil spill debris. Whether it’s a diaper that was left on the beach or a hair boom or a shoe… This tends to be more vigilant when the press is watching. The public will get what we call oil spill story fatigue eventually and when no one is looking clean up is sloppier.
All oil spill waste in the US is conventionally either landfilled (in haz mat specific dump sites) or incinerated at energy plants.
Hair mats and booms too can be burned as a fuel of course. They are mostly just hair and oil. But this should be done in a closed system that is conscious of particulates and toxins.
We have also tried composting hair mats. It works, eventually, but it takes a lot of space, time and/ or manual labor. I think it makes sense in the Amazon where they have the space, climate, worms and have been dealing with this for decades. Otherwise it really depends upon a case by case basis. At the end we used our compost for freeway landscaping and it worked out well. But it was truly and inefficient labor of love. See our conclusion at the end of this page: http://matteroftrust.org/639/oily-hairmat-bioremediation-sf-bay-area-treatability-study-phase-ii-completed
Mat Making Green Jobs
If you would like to set up a Clean Wave manufacturing site for recycled fiber oil spill clean-up mats, please let us know.
We are currently planning on starting 4 more sites in the U.S. (Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, East Coast, West Coast) strategically placed to reduce shipping distances for boxes of fibers thereby lowering the carbon footprint of the program. We are a nonprofit and intend to roll out sites conscientiously in order to address climate impacts, green jobs, emergency spill logistics, and clean storm drains. These sites will sell mats to Public Works Departments, construction sites, oil changers, machine shops… any place with oil leaks. We will also provide supplies and assistance to empower volunteers to provide materials during emergency oil spills safely distant from hazardous waste.
Our goal is to create jobs for all ages (loose fiber box collection, mat manufacturing, sales, distribution, etc.), divert fiber clippings from the waste stream, and recycle them into useful products that help clean our environment, decontaminate drought suffering waterways and make the program sustainable.
Clean Wave Program also provides educational opportunities in schools, after school programs and lecture halls to teach youth about recycling, clean water, and compost. We have created handouts, lesson plans, demo videos, empowering DIY kits, and science fair assistance. Learn how these abundant, renewable fibers visibly soak up oil instantly.
Please note: Oil is toxic and direct contact should be avoided. Disposal of oil soiled material must be dealt with according to hazardous waste material standards. Protective gear and disposal systems should be in place before any waste is collected.
For more information, please browse the links below. And if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, our Matter of Trust Eco-Center provides Clean Wave demo presentation for classroom field trips.