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Hair today, oil-soaking booms tomorrow

world Updated: May 10, 2010 01:13 IST

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One day, it was the flowing locks on a client’s head; the next it was being stuffed in women’s nylons and on its way to help soak up the oil that has begun to wash ashore on the US Gulf Coast.

People from around the world have been giving the hair off their heads, the fur off their pets’ backs, and the tights off their legs to make booms and mats to mop up the oily mess spewing out of the sunken BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil platform lying on the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico.

“People from France, England, Brazil, Australia, Canada and the US have signed up,” Lisa Gautier, co-founder of the Matter of Trust charity which links up recycled goods — like hair — with causes that need them, and is coordinating the collection of hair, fur and tights.

“There are 370,000 hair salons sending hair, 100,000 pet groomers, alpaca and sheep farmers, and the other day we had a huge group of transvestites, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who donated their very long nylons,” Gautier told AFP.

US nationwide pet supplies chain Petco joined the effort on Friday, as oil began to wash ashore on Louisiana’s beaches.

“We have 1,000 grooming salons across the US and we can ship up to a tonne of fur a day,” Petco spokeswoman Brooke Simon said.

Matter of Trust was getting 204,000 kg of hair or fur coming in every day and 50 people or companies signing up every minute.

It seems the idea of using hair to soak up oil came from a hairdresser in Alabama, Phil McCrory, who had an “aha” moment after seeing Alaskan sea otters saturated with oil after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1998.