Monday, May 3, 2010
Cleaning Oil Spills with Hair and Mushrooms
As you may have noticed by now, this blog is about using natural systems and organisms to solve human problems. As you may have also noticed, Paul Stamets is my hero, mostly because he has shown great creativity in doing just that. Well, he’s at it again. Human hair has an incredible affinity for oil. It naturally soaks up the oil our skin produces. It also works very well for soaking up crude oil like you would find in an oil spill. It is also an abundant waste product and is produced in great abundance at barber shops across the country. So various people have been working with those barber shops to collect hair and make it into mats that can be used to clean up oil spills.
But then what do you do with them? That’s where Stamets comes in. He has “trained” a strain of oyster mushrooms to metabolize crude oil. Yes, that’s right, it just eats crude. And when it is done, the area is clean and safe. They are pretty sure you could even eat the mushrooms produced, though I doubt anyone is in a rush to try it out. Well, it also turns out that oyster mushrooms are also quite fond of digesting hair. Stamets and his team can take the oil-soaked hair mats and grow oyster mushrooms on them, with the end result being compost that is safe for use in your garden. I love elegant solutions like this. We need more solutions like these.
For more information, check out these articles: