You are here: Home » PTI Stories » National » News
Business Standard

Waste human hair could help clean up oil spills

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

Your chopped-off locks could help clean up oil spills in oceans, according to scientists who suggest that human hair waste from salons may be a valuable asset to remediate maritime disasters.

Using hair to deal with oil spills is a fairly new area of research. Only a couple of studies having been conducted where the hair was either ground up or changed it in some way before being used.

Several environmental groups experimented with hair booms during the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, but did not conduct scientific research.

"Hair is a natural biosorbent. It's been shown to adsorb three to nine times its weight in oil," said Rebecca Pagnucco, from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia.

"Your hair gets oily and greasy - the oil basically is stuck to the hair fibres. By a similar method, it would stick to other oils, such as crude oil," Pagnucco said.

"There are a lot of different materials that are used in contamination cleanup - a lot of them are synthetic products, particularly things that are made of polypropylene and other types of plastic polymers," Pagnucco said.

However, particular types of dispersants are actually doing more harm than good trying to clean up oil sites, she said.

As a result of this concern, there has been a push towards research using natural materials such as cotton or wool.

"Cotton and wool can work very well because they are adsorbent obviously, but they are also quite valued in making textiles and clothing, so there's already another, more useful demand for them," Pagnucco said.

"Whereas with something like hair, there's no value in it once you've cut it off your head, it's waste," she said.

"Hair can also be reused several times without a significant decrease in its ability to adsorb oil," she said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Mon, July 17 2017. 14:13 IST