Belgium NGO recycles human hair to protect the environment

In order to safeguard the environment, coiffeurs around Belgium are collecting and bagging their clients’ cut hair, then donating it to a nongovernmental organization that recycles it.

The Hair Recycle project feeds locks and tresses into a machine that converts them into squares of matted hair that can absorb oil and other hydrocarbons that pollute the environment or are manufactured into biocomposite bags.

Patrick Janssen, the co-founder of the project, explained that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of hair can absorb 7-8 litres (1.8-2.1 gallons) of oil and hydrocarbons and that the mats can be placed in drains to absorb water pollution before it reaches rivers.

“Our items are more ethical since they are produced locally…they are not imported from the opposite side of the world,” he told Reuters. “They are produced locally to address local issues.”

According to the project’s website, hair has strong properties: a single strand can sustain up to 10 million times its weight, it is water-soluble and very elastic due to its keratin fibres, and it can absorb fat and hydrocarbons.

Isabelle Voulkidis, manager of the Helyode salon in Brussels, is one of dozens of hairdressers throughout the nation who pay a nominal fee to the organization to collect their haircuts.

As she combed and clipped the hair of one of her customers, she stated, “What inspires me personally is that I find it a shame that hair is thrown away today when I know that so much can be done with it.”

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