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…).
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.
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.
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.
How have you found hair booms compare to pete moss?
Pete moss, hay, otter fur, feathers, algae, wetland grasses any fiber can collect oil because what is happening is that the oil is coating the surface area. The reason that otters and birds have such trouble in oil spills is because there is kilometers of surface area when you coat every barbule and every cuticular scale of a hair or fur.
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.
How does hair react to cleaning up different viscosities of oil?
It works best on oil but I’ve seen people use it on tar balls as well on the beach if still squishy. The sand shakes off the hair.
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)
What is the main problem Matter of Trust has run into with the Clean Wave Program?
That depends upon the year. If it’s a year with major oil spills in the press, then we have the problem of too much hair and not enough warehouse space. Donors can get angry when we can’t immediately accept all the donations, because donor impulses are very strong and like immediate response. Recipient responses are usually, surprisingly, much more patient.
At other times we can use more supply or more volunteers, or more municipal takers so that we can support the program and make it sustainable and able to donate to emergency oil spills.
What have oil and gas companies said to Matter of Trust about the Clean Wave program?
Oil companies are made up of lots of humans – some are wonderful, helpful, distraught for the environment… some are exhausted, short tempered, putting out fires… The time of an oil spill is not the time to try to get an oil company to look at recycled hair booms. The time / place to use recycled hair booms is where there are disinfranchised residents or businesses that aren’t getting clean up relief. Oil companies / shipping companies / spillers in general are only going to put a lot of attention into this as long as the press and audience cares. 6 weeks after the BP spill, the world had oil spill news fatigue, the press had moved on and then a tug boat hit a defunt oil well that started spilling some oil and at that point, BP just sad – well now you don’t know what’s our oil washing ashore or that well – so we’re out of here and they pulled out. At that point all the parishes in Louisiana and the docks and harbors could take our volunteer made donated booms, no problem. Before that they were being careful and hopeful that everybody might get some emergency funding and didn’t want to rock the boat. As soon as all that hope goes away, any and all resources are gratefully accepted, hair, hay, Kevin Costner’s brother’s ocean vacuums… everything.
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
Has their been any issues brought up about possible contaminants in hair that could harm the water?
BP actually brought up that the hair mats and hair booms shed. But they were slammed in the press, as not only bald people go to the beach and sea mammals have fur coats. In comparison to the toxins BP was putting into the water, the natural hair shedding was minimal. Ideally only people who didn’t color, straighten or perm their hair would swim, but until then and as a % of the what pollutants are in waterways vs. what the mats can collect and remove in the way of contaminants – it’s no contest. But there are times where people will bring this up as a reason not to do it. There is always a way to nay something.
What is the absorbent weight ratio of hair booms vs. synthetic?(ex: how much oil can 1lb of hair absorb compared to synthetic?)
Hair is faster than the synthetic booms we have tested. Synthetic booms eventually soak up as much. We feel that oil spills need to be cleaned fast and by communities because dillution is a big deal. We have a comparison video on this.
What is the cost comparison of hair booms vs. synthetic booms?
Well oil is subsidized and often oil companies make oil spill clean up products which creates a revenue feedback loop. This makes it tougher market for green products to enter. As our mats are made from recycled / diverted waste fibers our costs come from local labor, warehouse space, machinery, replacement parts, plus general administrative expenses.
So it depends upon who is paying. If it is a shipping company then the cost of the clean up supplies is a different than if it is an oil company. For example, Corexit is an Exxon / BP product that was made illegal by the EU so they had a lot of it that they could use during the Horizon clean up. Since the responsible party only has to legally show best efforts to clean up 5% of an oil spill (because time and dilution make clean up nearly impossible) their major concern is to mitigate the amount of oil coming ashore and contaminating property that could lead to lawsuits. The EU warned the EPA that BP’s use of Corexit was harmful and so the EPA told BP that they would fine them for using it (spraying it over the Deep Water site by plane for weeks according to Sierra Club and my personal observations along with everyone in the Gulf Coast). BP weighed the options and decided that the fines were less expensive than the potential lawsuits so they continued to spray and the Corexit sank most of the oil so that it wouldn’t come ashore. Some of it didn’t sink though and it would collect in the warm gulf streams and look like black serpents, called “plumes” that would suddenly come up and blacken the white beaches. Corexit had the advantage of not only being free to BP, but BP had to put funds into the Clean Up Fund and was able to reimburse itself for the Corexit supply expense. I don’t believe it was also able to be reimbursed for the EPA fines for using it. That would have been going a bit far. I’ll let you look up Corexit, it is not a product I would let any of our volunteers get near (especially those of child bearing age or younger.)
Many BP staff members were very helpful to us in the Gulf and we were always sample boom to test against the hair / fur / fleece booms. We video taped examples of this – the white one is BP – first against hair in orange floatation mesh and next against fur/ fleece mixture which is as buoyant as synthetic booms. You can see for yourself. We shot the video in the lovely deep south of Montegut, Louisiana. We added music, which you can just turn down, so that the colorful fishermen’s comments were drowned out. The fishermen in the Gulf were especially upset with BP for using Corexit because it made all the oil sink and kill all the crabs and crayfish that were their livelihood. BP also provides oil for the synthetic booms and so the BP booms are also a budget line item reimbursement for them. We got this information from the head of Public Relations as BP, when we asked them why they were so against promoting that they were using the hair booms in their Boom and Acquisition Dept in Houma, Louisiana but in the press saying that they would never use hair.
So, on a shelf, an internationally made petroleum based BP boom is “cheaper” than a donated hair US manufactured felted hair mat, but nothing is cheaper than a volunteer made donated waste fleece and recycled enclosure material boom which is entirely free.
Do you have any interesting statistics/data about oil spills that you could share?
We were told that during the BP spill we received donations from every zip code in North America – according to USPS, plus 30 other countries. We also got 3/4 of a million pounds of waste fiber donations over a 4-day period of exceptional press, including truckloads of buffalo fleece (April being fleecing season).
1 pound of hair soaks up 1 liter of oil in 1 minute (but that can be done faster if manipulated in the oil – as you can see by videos it can be very fast with mats and loose hair.)
We’re currently concentrating on storm drains because 50% of oil spills that contaminate our waterways comes from used motor oil drops on our roadways being washed by rain into storm drains. Big flashy newsworthy oil spills are actually a small percentage of the problem, but they’re sexier and help with awareness. Storm drains don’t excite everyone as much as they do me 🙂 The great thing about storm drains is that they are in every municipality and can use 3 mats per drain per year and mats help collect leaves and twigs as well so less clogs. It’s a great local green business. We are currently setting up a model one for field trips in San Francisco city center in order to promote this to visiting conventions. SF gets 16 million tourists a year so we hope to get a lot of great ideas and feedback and expansion from this. We hope you will come and visit us too! We are winding up renovations of the building and it will be open in May 2017.
How can I buy hair mats?
Hair mats are available for sale on our online store.
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.