May
26
2010

A Georgia veterinarian is donating boxes of pet hair to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mark Helvie, DVM, owns the AAHA-accredited Dahlonega Veterinary Hospital in Dahlonega, Ga., with his wife, Kim.

Helvie said he got the idea to donate the hair from a classmate who posted a link on the social networking site Facebook. After checking out the site, MatterOfTrust.org, Helvie decided the operation looked legitimate so he signed up.

Matter of Trust is a nonprofit that says its mission is to “link ideas, spark activities and materialize sustainable systems.” As part of its Natural Surplus program, the organization is collecting donated human and animal hair. One it is collected, the hair is stuffed into nylon stockings and formed into booms. The booms are tied together and soak up oil.

Ga. practice donates fur for oil cleanup
Volunteers put together these hair booms – stockings stuffed with human and animal hair - in Alabama earlier this month to help with the BP oil spill. (Photo courtesy of matteroftrust.org)

“What they’re trying to do is use this instead of manufactured materials,” Helvie said. “This is a product that is thrown in the trash every day.”

Helvie said he collects a large kitchen garbage bag of hair each week, which contains about 7-10 pounds of hair. He collects the hair from pets that are groomed at his practice, and from shave-downs on pets in the kennels. Helvie also goes to five different hair salons in town, but they don’t always have a lot.

“Sometimes I pick up the hair and I say ‘that’s only one German shepherd’s worth,’” Helvie said.

A spokesperson for Matter of Trust said that the charity is receiving lots of animal hair, but did not have specific numbers.

“Well post a tally soon,” the spokesperson said. “[Donations] sky rocketed once all the alpaca farmers found us and told us it was sheering season. We are drowning in renewable natural fiber - and its all good.”

In an article on the organization’s efforts in collecting human hair, the Denver Post quoted a scientist from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The scientist said the hair is potentially hazardous and could release pathogens or bacteria into the environment.

The EPA previously approved the organization’s hair mats, called “Ottimats,” for use at oil spills. These are different from the booms, however. Matter of Trust said it working with the Environmental Protection Agency to test different materials for the boom sheaths (besides stockings), such as burlap bags and sandbagging materials.

Helvie said the response from staff and clients has been supportive, but he hoped the move would drive business a little bit, too. So far, he said the practice is staying a little bit busier, but he was not sure that was a result of the hair collection.

He has already sent out two boxes of hair, and has more ready to ship out when Matter of Trust is ready to process it.

More information
www.matteroftrust.org

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