Our ecological public charity concentrates on
Manmade Surplus, Natural Abundance,
Clean Wave FAQ
How do I donate hair/fur/fleece?
If you are interested in donating to our Clean Wave program, first sign up on our free gift/wish matching system Excess Access (even for a one time donation). We ask you to do this because warehouse spaces are limited and we cannot always accept boxes of clippings. Right now we need ponytails that are 3 inches or longer (we use these for the mats’ scrim), so please sign up!
We ask everyone to use our Excess Access recycling program rather than just providing an address because of the sheer volume of hair/fur donations that we receive. Signing up is a very quick and painless process. The system is free and it saves us an enormous amount of money, time and energy. Humanity is so wonderfully generous! Our volunteers and staff sort and channel many tons of fiber to the warehouses and emergency spills that can accept them. Our charity has (and partners with other) depots. The cost of space to store the fiber (hair, fur, fleece, etc.) 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 you might have (such as ponytails), please BROWSE WISHES in the menu bar of the hair, fur, and fiber department to look for potential recipients. Also, when there is an emergency oil spill, we send out alerts to all donors, especially those closest to the disaster. Please send us your feedback on this, we always love to hear from you and get suggestions!
• Ponytails 3 inches or longer – Please shampoo before cutting and put loose 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 (sausage shape) – Booms (for floating in water, land waddles, absorbing socks…) are made of 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…).
Matter of Trust uses hair/fur/fleece donations in several ways. Fibers are felted into mats on site or at partner felting sites or they 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 hazmat teams in oil spill cleanups 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.
Are hair mats safe for the environment?
Hair mats are non-toxic to the environment unlike petroleum based mats and booms. Oil companies drill and use oil to make petroleum based products that clean up oil spills. We are offering an efficient, renewable, natural eco-alternative to that silly cycle.
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 people who colored, straightened or permed their hair wouldn’t swim, but until then and as a % of 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.
Hair, fur, fleece and feathers soak up oil extremely quickly. So quickly that it is dangerous for wildlife to be near an oil spill, as their fur and feathers get coated in oil before they can escape. We take advantage of the adsorbing properties of these hairs and fibers by felting them into the form of mats and making booms.
During Exxon Valdez (see above)
It’s the surface area of all the hair – and the nooks and 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 the entire surface area of the hair.
Yes hair floats – that is why it is last to go down your shower drain and sometimes blocks up the pipes. Hair mats are designed to float, while hair booms are also designed to stack and protect beaches. Oil and hair both float, but dirt and seaweed can weigh booms down. Ideally, absorbent oil spill cleanup materials are not left for days on end, but are retrieved quickly. Remember, ships are made of steel so even steel floats when it is in the right shape.
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
What can I (my kid, my classroom, my scout troop…) do to help the Clean Wave program?
How do you make hair booms?
Bunker fuel 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.
Pete moss, hay, otter fur, feathers, algae, wetland grasses – any fiber can collect oil because the oil is just coating the surface area of the fiber. 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
In the US, Hazmat teams are usually legally responsible for all oil spill debris, and conventionally all the debris goes to landfills or is incinerated. Whether it’s a diaper that was left on the beach or a hair boom or a shoe… When the press is watching, Hazmat cleanup crews are much more vigilant. Eventually, the public gets what we call “oil spill story fatigue,” and when no one is looking, cleanup becomes sloppier.
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.
Although hair mats and booms are strong and can be wrung out, they’re better for one use because they get so much dirt, sand, seaweed etc. stuck in them and it becomes a messy and unnecessary business to try and reuse them. Also, like with any towel or sponge, they become a little less efficient than the first time. Hair is a renewable resource and you can usually make more than enough mats and booms.
Our organization has successfully demonstrated the remediation of bunker fuel oiled mats during an 18 month program from 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 costs 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 toxic for volunteers).
Has the technique of using hair to clean up oil spills been tested by laboratories?
The fiber materials and the mats (and “pillows”) have been tested and were patented but are now free domain. You can test it yourself very easily – we do it in schools all the time. 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 🙂
Well, when fibers and supplies are donated and people volunteer, it’s free. We are working 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. There are hair salons and pet groomers everywhere, so 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 are the best answer.
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 dilution is a big deal. We have a comparison video on this.
There are over 2600 oil spills a year on average. Most famously, we helped respond to 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 runoff 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 percentage of the oil that harms the environment, but they’re useful for awareness! Millions of gallons of oil bubble up naturally under the oceans every year.
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. Donor impulses are very strong and they like immediate response, and unfortunately we can’t always accept all the donations that we receive. 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.
Time is crucial when dilution is an issue – in an ocean, oil spreads fast. There are oil spills in the Amazon jungle that have been there for 25 years. 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 than that %. 1 quart of oil can spread out rapidly over 2 acres of ocean. Heavy oil eventually sinks to the bottom 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.
In cold water, oil can get hard and tar ball-like. It often washes up in silver dollar size blobs, which, when moist, are easy 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.
Oh don’t get me started on dispersants. They create foams and all kinds of weirdness.
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 disenfranchised residents or businesses that aren’t getting cleanup 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.
Six weeks after the BP spill, the world had oil spill news fatigue, the press had moved on and then a tug boat hit a defunct oil well that started spilling some oil. BP just said – 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.
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 us to, we will highlight your wishes on the homepage, our facebook etc. and with our international partners. Other steps we suggest taking are to:
– Try working 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 lawsuits 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 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 take photos and to save for testing – and it can be (laboriously) composted or burned as a fuel source.
Do volunteers and cleanup crews have to be trained?
See our videos on booming. Each location is different about actual oil spill cleanup.
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.
Oil is subsidized and oil companies often make oil spill cleanup products which create a revenue feedback loop. This makes a 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.
It really depends upon who is paying. If it is a shipping company then the cost of the cleanup supplies is 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). 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 collected in the warm gulf streams and formed into what looked 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 contribute to the Clean Up Fund and was able to reimburse itself for the Corexit supply expense.
Many BP staff members were very helpful to us in the Gulf and we were always sampling booms to test against the hair / fur / fleece booms. We videotaped 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. 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 a budget line item reimbursement for them. We got this information from the head of Public Relations at 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 they were 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.
How can I buy hair mats?
Hair mats are available for sale on our online store.
We love partnering! The more depots there are the better, as it reduces the carbon footprint associated with shipping fibers to faraway destinations. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Mat Making Green Jobs
If you would like to set up a Clean Wave manufacturing site for recycled fiber oil spill cleanup 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.