It may give a whole new meaning to the term greasy mop.
A French hairdresser believes he has come up with a way to help clean the world’s oceans of oil pollution by stuffing customers’ locks into nylon stockings and floating them in harbours.
It may sound harebrained but Thierry Gras, a stylist in Saint-Zacharie, southeastern France and founder of the project Coiffeurs Justes (Fair Hairdressers), insists the method works wonders.
"Hair is lipophilic, which means it absorbs fats and hydrocarbons," he told AFP. Tests involving tubes stuffed with hair and floated in the nearby port of Cavalaire-sur-Mer have proved successful.
The tubes, Mr Gras explained, "can be used in case of a serious oil spill, such as the one in Mauritius recently, but the idea here is to remove micro-pollution on a continuous basis" in ports.
He hopes to start large-scale production of the tubes before year-end if he gets the green light from labour inspectors and anti-pollution officials.
Mr Gras has currently a stock of 40 tons of human hair in a warehouse in nearby Brignoles sent by thousands of participating hairdressers from all over France -as well as Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.
He plans to sell the forearm-length tubes, which can each absorb eight times their weight in oil, for nine euros apiece.
According to the stylist, each hairdresser on average produces about 29 kilogrammes of hair waste every year, most of it ending up in the trash.
His dream of fighting pollution was kindled in childhood by the 1978 stranding of the Amoco Cadiz tanker off France's Brittany coast. In what is thought to be a world first, human hair was used in the effort to mop up the more than 200,000 tonnes of spilled oil.
When he became a hairdresser, he was shocked to learn there was no recycling facility for hair waste and in 2015 founded his association.
It has some 3,300 contributing salons to date.
According to a NASA study published in 1998, 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilogrammes) of hair should be able to absorb some 170,000 gallons (644,000 litres) of spilled oil.