MIDDLETOWN — Debby Mastrianni, owner of The Hair Affair inside Main Street Market, opens up a cardboard box packed with about 250 different types of shorn hair.
Normally, this large cluster of locks would just be swept up and thrown away. But for now, Mastrianni will be taking the cut hair and shipping it down south in wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is made into absorbent booms or woven into absorbent mats.
Since hair is ideal for soaking up oil, hair salons are making use of it.
“All of this hair is clean, too,” Mastrianni said.
Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit agency that makes hair booms, is calling all salons, groomers, fleecers and anyone dealing in hair to donate their hair, fleece, fur and feathers for their Hair for Oil Spills program to aid the recovery effort for the Gulf oil spill.
The problem is British Petroleum has no intention of using the hair booms. The company initially agreed to work with Matter of Trust, but then issued a press release May 21 rescinding its interest in hair booms. BP said synthetic commercial booms, many manufactured at a Shelton business called Slickbar, were better because of natural fiber’s lack of buoyancy.
Matter of Trust decided to keep taking donations and stockpile the hair booms in case BP changes its mind.
It has been estimated that some 42 million to 100 million gallons of oil have been funneled into the gulf after a BP offshore drilling rig exploded in April.
“They are using recycled nylon and pantyhose to make a nylon coil,” Mastrianni said. “It absorbs the oil.”
The Hair Affair is one of many salons across the country participating in donating hair. Mastrianni said her hair salon will send out boxes of hair as long as Matter of Trust asks for them. Her goal is to ship out about 20 pounds of hair.
“This is our first of many shipments,” she said.
Dreadlocks are OK, too, but the organization says they must be packaged and marked in a separate box.
The hair is shipped to ports down south, where it is stuffed into recycled nylons and meshed into booms, logs of hair perfect for soaking up oil that are assembled by volunteers. They can soak up tar on the ground, or can be linked up as buoys and strung out across the water to collect oil.
According to Matter of Trust, 10 miles of boom have already been put together in 19 warehouses by more than 600 volunteers along the coast. The organization’s goal is to make 25 miles worth of boom. There are about 300,000 hair salons in the country, each estimated to cut an average of a pound of hair per day, the organization says.
Sarah Colella, a stylist at the Hair Affair, said two young girls with long hair came in the other day for their first haircuts. Upon knowing about the Hair for Oil Spills program, the girls ended up cutting their hair to chin level.
“We thank all of our clients for participating in this program,” said Mastrianni.
Those interested in donating can visit matteroftrust.org.
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