Human Hair is Saving the Planet

Yes, you read the title correctly! Human hair is being used to save the environment. But how?

After the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai submarine volcanic eruption happened in Tonga on 15th January 2021, shock waves caused the strong waves that hit a sea tanker, unloading crude oil, on the coast of Lima in Peru. As a result, over 6,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the ocean causing the Peruvian government to declare a state of environmental emergency. The oil spill had widespread effects on marine life as well as contaminating 21 beaches on the Pacific coast.

To help clean up the oil spill, the Peruvian government made an unusual appeal to its citizens: The government asked them to donate their hair!

Though this request may sound strange; human hair (as well as fur) has some very interesting properties. One being the ability to repel water and soak up oil. A kilogram of hair can absorb 8 kilograms of oil, making human hair the perfect solution to this ecological problem.

Government organized sites with hairdressers to cut and collect human hair saw hundreds of Peruvians line up to do their part to save the environment. There were several collection points around the city of Lima and people were called to donate hair through social media and adverts.

A kilogram of hair can absorb 8 kilograms of oil

After the hair was collected, it was stuffed into chains of large sausage-like mesh buoys that would float on the water surface to collect the spilled oil.

This unconventional method seems to have been helping this environmental crisis in Peru. Who would’ve thought that human hair would be able to save Peru from its worst ecological disasters in their modern history.

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