Hair and mushrooms probably aren't the first things to come to mind when you're preparing to clean up an oil spill. Yet that's exactly what a team of volunteers is using to mop up the errant oil slicks that have washed up on beaches around San Francisco Bay.
Lisa Gautier, who provided the volunteers with 1,000 hair mats, explained that hair acts as a sponge, naturally absorbing the oil from both air and water. She runs Matter of Trust, a nonprofit that matches businesses' donations to smaller, needy nonprofits; her organization makes money in part by collecting human hair from local salons, sending them to Georgia to be woven into mats before selling them to the SF Department of the Environment to soak up used motor oil.So where exactly do the mushrooms factor in? Once the hair mats have absorbed the oil, oyster mushrooms begin to grow on the mats, consuming the viscous substance. After the mushrooms have finished absorbing all the oil - a process that takes about 12 weeks - the hair mats can be reused as nontoxic compost.
The hair mats have already been put to good use by over 700 volunteers. Gautier is hoping her hair mats will catch on; she has already contacted a Chinese company that specializes in industrial-sized hair mats about providing her with more and is considering making larger sea booms by stuffing hair into nylon stockings (how's that for creative).
It's always nice to see people use their heads - hair and all.