WATERBURY — What began as a Friday afternoon haircut for Linda Friez at her longtime beauty salon, Shears’ Gallery, turned into an unexpected act of recycling that could save Gulf Coast beaches and wildlife.

The inch of pale blonde locks that salon owner Pam Testa snipped from Friez’s head went into a bag of collected trimmings that will be used to soak up the millions of gallons of oil leaking from last month’s oil rig explosion.

“It’s not like I need it anymore,” Friez said. “It’s a form of recycling for a very, very good cause. If I can help try to make the best of a bad situation, I’m all for that. It’s an unusual way to help, but I’m happy to do it.”

This week Shears’ Gallery joined a growing network of about 90,000 hair salons, pet groomers and wool farmers that are sending their trimmings to Matter of Trust, a San Francisco charity that runs a Hair Clippings for Oil Spills program.

The 12-year-old charity is matching the nationwide hair donations with groups of Gulf Coast volunteers who stuff the trimmings into pantyhose. Once tied off, the “hair sausages” can be used as floating booms that draw oil from the water.

“Simply put, we shampoo because hair collects oil,” said Lisa Craig Gautier, the director of Matter of Trust. “It soaks up skin oils, grabs oil from the pollution in the air, and it can soak up petroleum in oil spills.”

Matter of Trust said it has about 400,000 pounds of hair and fur headed toward the Gulf Coast right now. Volunteers are holding “Boom-B-Q” parties to stuff the hair into the pantyhose with brooms and toilet plungers.

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