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Guess What? Old Hair Fights Oil Spills

Hair can soak up oil spills. Who knew? September Sirico and Pat Vigilio are filling boxes with it. They’ll send them to the California non-profit, Matter of Trust, to help fight British Petroleum’s Deepwater oil spill.

Sirico manages the Greg and Tony A Oudidad Salon in Westport. Two floors above her, Vigilio operates Riverside Barbershop. Along with thousands of other salons in the U.S., they’re collecting the clippings from their client’s haircuts. In California, volunteers will stuff them into donated nylon stocking, which will then be packed into sturdy, oil-absorbing booms.

Matter of Trust “has warehouses full of hair,” Sirico said. Her staff began picking up trimmings earlier this week and already has four boxes ready to ship. They cost just a few dollars to mail. “A box of hair is pretty light,” she said.

Salons wash their clients’ hair before it’s cut. That cleans out the natural oils, so the bits and pieces left on the stylist's floor are ready to absorb more. Hair takes in oil naturally, whether from your scalp or from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Sirico said that the idea for collecting clients' clippings came from upstairs. Vigilio proposed that the two of them participate in the national drive. “Actually it was my son," said Vigilio, as he worked on a customer. "He read about it and told my wife and then she told me.”

The Oudidad salon tries hard to find something useful to do with trimmings. Sirico said that they were one of the first in the state to get involved with Locks of Love, an organization that uses donated ponytails to create wigs for cancer patients, primarily children. It also donates to Beautiful Lengths, a similar organization that focuses on adults.

Sirico said that she might continue to donate trimmings to Matter of Trust even after the leak in the Gulf has been cleaned up. The organization warehouses it year round, ready for shipment to smaller spills. “If they get some use out of the hair, then it’s a lot better than just throwing it out,” Vigilio said.

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