Barbers’ Remarkable Use Of Cut Hair Helps Save The Environment

A barbershop chain in Sydney has come up with an innovative use for its customers’ old hair, which helps save the environment. 
Most discarded split ends are swiftly swept from the floor of the hairdressers and thrown out along with the general waste, but Grand Royal Barbers, which has stores in Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and the CBD, is leading the way in sustainable hairdressing. Staff at the company collect up the old hair and donate it to make stuffed stockings, which are then used to help soak up oil during oil spills. In total, the barbershop chain collects around seven bin-fulls of hair a week before it is collected by Sustainable Salons, a company dedicated to reducing waste in salons across Australia. Customers pay a $2 (£1.05) levy to cover the cost of the scheme, and though Dillon was initially apprehensive about how customers may react to the cost she revealed there has been a great support for their work. It’s been quite remarkable really, we never knew so many people were passionate about being sustainable. Dillon went on to express her pride at the initiative, adding: We want to leave a legacy. The idea of using hair to help mop up oil was highlighted following research from UTS’ Dr Megan Murray, from the School of Life Sciences, and then masters student Rebecca Pagnucco in 2017. Explaining how the process works, Pagnucco said: Hair is a natural biosorbent. It’s been shown to adsorb three to nine times its weight in oil. Your hair gets oily and greasy the oil basically is stuck to the hair fibres. By a similar method, it would stick to other oils, such as crude oil. As people are becoming more conscious of the products being used on the environment, hair provides an ideal, natural alternative to traditional dispersants used to tackle oil spills. The master's student continued: With something like hair, there’s no value in it once you’ve cut it off your head, it’s waste. Hair can also be reused several times without a significant decrease in its ability to absorb oil. As well as re-using the hair, Grand Royal Barbers makes an effort to recycle all plastic bottles, all razors and the foil used in hair dying. Since the success of the scheme, Dillon has noticed dozens of barbers and salons jump on board with the sustainable idea.