Hair clippings going unused for Gulf oil spill cleanup

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverMay 20, 2010 

US NEWS OILSPILL 8 MCT

Oil clings to reeds on the bank of the breakwater in the mouth of the Mississippi River where it meets the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

SEAN GARDNER/GREENPEACE/MCT

Hair salons in North Carolina and nationwide are sweeping up clippings, stuffing them in boxes and sending them to the Gulf Coast to help sop up oil. But the officials overseeing the massive crude cleanup say they aren't using any hair. It is all apparently just being stored in warehouses in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based charity, has been leading the effort, calling on barbers, beauticians and pet groomers to collect human and pet hair by the tons. The hair is stuffed in tubes of women's hosiery, creating "booms" that soak up oil, the charity says. Hair collects oil from your scalp, so why not crude oil, too?

Matt Lewis, owner of the Sport Clips barber shop in Raleigh's North Hills, said a store manager heard about Matter of Trust's efforts, so Lewis registered the store on the group's website, matteroftrust.org. Last week, Sport Clips sent 12 pounds of hair at a cost of $13 in shipping to an address in Louisiana, he said. He even persuaded Sport Clips corporate headquarters to get involved.

Syd's Hair Shop in Chapel Hill and VIPet Resort in Raleigh also are vacuuming up hair and calling the UPS guy.

But hair booms are not being used in the cleanup of the exploded BP oil rig, Heath Seng of the U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday. Mark Proegler, a spokesman for BP who is at the cleanup site, said crews are using only "regular, absorbent plastic booms."

Even Matter of Trust's Web site acknowledged this week, "At this time BP is not soliciting or accepting [hair] donations."

"Our pleasant response to this is, 'At this time Matter of Trust is simply stockpiling hair booms in donated warehouses all along the Gulf Coast, in case you need them,' " wrote Lisa Craig Gautier, president of Matter of Trust, on the website.

Gautier has not returned voicemails or e-mails for the past week.

Lewis, of Sport Clips, said he was unaware that officials are not using hair in the cleanup and that this is not clear on Matter of Trust's Web site. "I've got to think they are doing good with this," he said.

VIPet Resort is hosting a "Groom for The Gulf" benefit Saturday at 9 a.m., where staff members will cut and collect dogs' hair. Karen Murphree, the owner, said she too signed up with Matter of Trust and was given an address in Florida to send her collected hair.

"It's my understanding they are waiting for the oil spill to come in closer to the coast line," she said.

Syd's has a large trash can that is almost full of hair, said owner Bradford Scott, who plans to ship it by the end of the week.

"We're still getting e-mails from Matter of Trust that they keep getting more and more warehouse space," he said, even after learning that hair is not now being used at the cleanup site. "I'm hoping it all works out."

The Matter of Trust website Wednesday night had an "alert" that said, "BP has contacted us and wants to use the boom!" But a Coast Guard spokesman said no plans to use the hair booms had arisen.

To read the complete article, visit www.newsobserver.com.

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