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Pet's fur can help clean oily Gulf Coast

By Matt Hickman, Mother Nature Network
If you dog sheds a lot, he can help the effort to clean up the Gulf oil spill.
If you dog sheds a lot, he can help the effort to clean up the Gulf oil spill.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Your hair and pet's fur is needed to help clean Gulf oil spill
  • The hair and fur is stuffed into nylon stockings which become booms
  • The oil clings to the hair booms and mats which are then removed from water
  • Matter of Trust is coordinating collections and volunteers to build booms

(Mother Nature Network) -- If you've been keeping tabs on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, you've probably been wondering how exactly you can help.

Well, for those of you with furry, four-legged flatmates, it can be as easy as sweeping the floors and collecting all that errant fur and hair.

So how exactly can hoarding pet fur help with cleaning up one of the worst environmental disasters in recent memory? Enter Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that's been accepting donations of non-filthy pet fur and human hair since 1998 to craft oil-absorbing hairmats -- described as "flat square dreadlocks" -- and hair-stuffed containment booms made from recycled pantyhose.

These hairy contraptions are effective at soaking-up oil and they don't require any new resources ... just stuff you'd normally trash (or compost) unless you're into, umm, stockpiling fur.

I must say, sending along fur to Matter of Trust via Excess Access is an eco-ideal spring cleaning mission for folks with critters around the house.

In addition to pet owners, groomers and salon owners can get involved too by sending in bulk shipments of hair/fur. In fact, as of Tuesday, 400,000 pounds of hair was en route to the Gulf Coast.

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Alabama hairdresser Phil McCrory came up with the hairy idea while watching news reports on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, according to the Matter of Trust website.

Video: Hair being used in oil cleanup

As a hair professional, he knows how hair is attracted to oil-- and why humans need to shampoo their hair regularly. The oil clings to the hair but is not absorbed by it. That makes hair a good, natural cleaning aide.

Matter of Trust says they've opened more than a dozen warehouses in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida where the hair is shipped. Hundreds of volunteers stuff the hair and fur into nylons which are then tied together to form tubes or booms. The booms are used to surround, contain and aid cleanup of the oil spill.

What is needed, how to send it:

• Clean hair from human heads -- can be straight, curly, dyed, permed, straightened

• Every type of fur, horse hair, wool waste and feather is fine

• Make certain there is no garbage -- metal or paper -- in with the hair/fur

• Washed nylon stocking (even with runs)

• Place in separate plastic garbage bag, put inside of separate boxes labeled debris-free hair/fur or nylons

• Check with Matter of Trust website to find out where to ship the boxes.

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