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Human hair used to filter the ocean

Global Goals & Global Society
Human hair used to filter the ocean

Master hairdresser Tanja Ill from Heidelberg is one of more than 1,400 hairdressers throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands who collect their customers' hair and donate it for these hair nets.

"It's important for me and my customers to work sustainably," Ill says. That's why she was immediately excited when she learned about the "Hair help the Oceans" initiative on social media. Master hairdresser Emidio Gaudioso from Bückeburg near Minden in Lower Saxony and management consultant Thomas Keitel near Würzburg, who specializes in advising hair salons and sustainability, founded "Hair help the Oceans." The model was the "Coiffeure Justes" (fair hairdressers) association from southern France, which fills hair into old nylon stockings, ties them into rolls and uses them as filters in polluted waters.

Hair to filter instead of disposal

The hair filters literally suck the oil out of the water. They are then cleaned so that they can be reused up to eight times. One kilogram of hair can filter up to eight kilograms of oil from water. These hair filters are used all over the world to filter oils, fuel residues and even suntan lotion from the water in lakes and rivers, off industrial sites and on the coasts. Even when the Japanese freighter Wakashio ran aground off Mauritius in July 2020, broke apart and about 1,000 tons of oil gushed into the lagoon off Pointe d'Esny, the hairnets were used and prevented the worst. "Hair Help the Oceans" took the filters a bit further and professionalized the production.

Normally, the hair in the 83,000 hair salons in Germany is disposed of with the residual waste and usually ends up in a waste incineration plant. At Tanja Ill's small salon "Ill Style," a large bag of hair is now collected once a month for the hair filters. Ill also works sustainably in other ways. For example, she recycles aluminum foil she uses for highlights and other things, as well as other consumables such as gloves, shampoo bottles and tubes of dye. And she's in the process of making her salon carbon-neutral and getting that certified, too. "My customers are totally thrilled," says the Heidelberg hairdresser.

Such disasters, in which tons of oil flow into the sea, occur every two years or so. But every day, lakes, rivers and the sea are also polluted by oil - everyday accidents that we never hear about.The good thing is: every individual of the global society can do something about it. With nets made of human hair, oil can be bound and taken out of the water and that’s how people unconsciously participate in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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