Collecting Fur To Help Clean up Oil Spills

Donate your dog’s hair to help clean polluted water.
By JoAnna Lou, October 2021
dog fur for oil spills

Living with long-haired dogs, it seems all the brushing in the world won’t prevent fur from ending up in every possible crevice of my house. It turns out both human hair and dog fur is great for absorbing oil, including the oil spills along the coasts. The recent miles-wide oil spill off the California coast near Huntington Beach is ruining beaches and estuaries along the coast.

In addition to ocean oil spills, researchers at the University of Sydney have found that dog fur and human hair—recycled from salon wastes and dog groomers—can be just as good as synthetic fabrics at cleaning up crude oil spills on hard land surfaces like highway roads, pavement, and sealed concrete floors. It seems dog fur is particularly good at cleaning up crude oil. Together with human hair recycled from salons, recycled dog fur is an effective and sustainable way to mop up dangerous environmental contaminants on land.

Here’s how dog owners can help.

The non-profit organization, Matter of Trust, collects donations of human and canine hair to make mats and booms with recycled nylons (yes, the ones you wear under your skirts!).  The mats and booms are then placed in the ocean to soak up oil.

It’s very easy to do so. Simply sign up at the website and you'll be provided an address to send your donation to. Currently, Matter of Trust is accepting waste fiber donations from everywhere (100% debris-free, any length). There’s always a need for ponytails that are 3 inches or longer.

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If you’re interested in making a hair donation, visit the Matter of Trust web site for more information. Your local human salon or canine groomer may also collect for the cause.

According to Matter of Trust, the United States has over 370,000 hair salons, each cutting an average of a pound of hair per day. Dog groomers usually cut three pounds per day. Imagine how much oil could be soaked up using material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Check out this video for more information on how hair goes from dog to ocean.

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Photo: Adobe Stock

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.