Local woman collecting hair to help clean up Gulf oil spill

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LEWISTON — Misty Edwards knows a thing or two about hair. A licensed cosmetologist, she knows that human hair is super-absorbent. She knows it sucks up grease and oil like nobody’s business.

And wouldn’t you know it? There are people along the Gulf Coast who need absorbent materials in a big way.

“The oil spill is devastating,” the 34-year-old Lewiston woman said Tuesday. “Wildlife is suffering. I’m an animal lover and I love nature as well as science. I want to do what I can to help and be able to give back.”

And so, the idea of making booms out of hair occurred to her.

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Edwards wasn’t the only one. Around the nation, thousands of people are collecting human hair. By Tuesday afternoon, 400,000 pounds had been rounded up, to be used along the Gulf Coast to suck up oil gushing since the rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20.

“I’m willing to go to all the local salons and pick up their hair,” Edwards said.

Consider it a heads-up to the salons. On Thursday, Edwards will be making the rounds, looking for heaping bags full of hair to send to Florida.

It’s part of an effort initiated by a group called Matter of Trust. That group is collecting hair and planning “Boom BQs,” gatherings around the Gulf where volunteers will turn all that hair into oil-spill hair mats.

You may titter all you want at the idea of human hair helping with such a large-scale spill. But according to the people of Matter of Trust, a single mat of hair weighing 1 pound can absorb a quart of oil and can be used a hundred times.

“You shampoo your hair because it gets greasy,” said Phil McCrory, a stylist and inventor of hair-mat products. “Hair is very efficient at collecting oil out of the air, off surfaces like your skin and out of water, even petroleum oil.”

Businesses that cater to hair generally throw out their floor sweepings. There is no real recycling system for hair, although it is common for people to wander to the barber shops and salons in search of hair for various purposes.

“People want it to use in their gardens and things like that,” said Tammy Chamberland, a stylist at Madison Avenue Salon in Auburn.

In the garden, hair can be used as mulch or as a weed blocker. Some people swear human hair — mostly the scent of it — will keep critters such as skunks and raccoons out of their sheds and garages.

Edwards wants it to be made into an oil boom, to help in the Gulf and for other spills that occur. It remains to be seen how much she’ll collect when she makes the rounds to salons and barber shops.

“I’ll take all I can get,” she said.

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

Contact Misty Edwards to donate hair: misty.s.edwards@gmail.com or 207-740-4844

More information on the Web: www.matteroftrust.org

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