Gulf of Mexico oil spill getting you down? Time for a hair cut. While it may seem like a harebrained scheme at first blush, hair clippings make remarkably quick work of sopping up oil. Just ask Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that collects landfill-bound locks from over 300,000 salons and barbershops throughout North and South America, China, and India. Piled together, the discarded tresses are then needle-punched into hair mats or stuffed, sausage-like, into nylon hose to create absorbent “booms.”

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Any hair, including processed hair, soaks up oil even better than fur or synthetics can. (A pound of hair can absorb a quart of oil in one minute.) Once wrung out, the mats can be reused 30 to 100 times, after which they’re broken down organically using mushroom spores, making them ecologically superior to petroleum-based spill products like polypropylene pads.

A pound of hair can absorb a quart of oil in one minute and reused up to 100 times.

Plus, 98 percent of the oil sopped up by the mats can be recovered, according to OttiMat, the company that invented the mats and loans out the design to Matter of Trust for remediating emergency spills, including the Nov. 7, 2007, spill that engulfed San Francisco Bay.

“Now at the Gulf Coast, people are stuffing booms,” says Matter of Trust. “Salons and beachlovers all over the Gulf Coast are organizing boom-making parties called ‘Boom B Ques.'” Other hair-harvesting drives include “Cut-a-thons” and “Shave-a-thons.” Who says you can’t let your hair down while doing good?

+ Gulf Oil-Spill Hair Booms

+ Matter of Trust

[Via USA Today]