For an industry which relies upon the ocean, the news back in July regarding the Indian Ocean oil spill should still be at the top of our minds. An estimation of around 1,000 tonnes of oil has poisoned the waters of the Indian Ocean thus far, further to MV Wakashio running aground on a coral reef, and anyone who has seen the videos and images on social media of nearby inhabitants wading through the once turquoise water is aware of just how damaging this incident has been.

There is much research into the methods we can adopt to clean-up the ocean, and the governing bodies within the maritime industry work hard to ensure regulations are in place so that superyachts cannot treat the ocean with complete disregard, as well as various green initiatives to make us reconsider how we build, design and power a superyacht.

This activity has been accelerated further to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which have placed eco-friendly development at the centre of the daily life of businesses, communities and even on an individual level.

However, an industry which seems far-flung from the superyacht industry is that of hairdressing, but strangely the ocean has now united us and we may well be able to enjoy sailing on clear blue waters for much longer thanks to the innovative but simple recycling of an age-old resource.

Thierry Gras, a hairdresser from Var in southern France, created the Coiffeurs Justes (Fair Hairdressers) association in 2015, having realised that there was no system in place for the main waste of any hairdresser – hair. Waste is the key word, as this organic material actually has many advantages for other sectors, most recently recognised in Mauritius further to the horrific oil spill.

"One of the qualities of hair is that it's lipophilic, so it absorbs hydrocarbons - that is to say the hydrocarbons stick to it, that's why you can wash it, it doesn't absorb them," Gras recently told Agence France-Presse. This quality is exactly where hair comes into play with regards to the ocean clean-up when looking at disasters such as MV Wakashio and, on a smaller scale, the oil being expelled from boats within harbours.

The wasted hair from various salons that are part of Gras’ movement is sent to a warehouse where it then fills stocking-like structures to create floating tubes. “A pilot scheme at the port of Cavalaire-sur-Mer has already proved the hair tubes are successful at absorbing the oil from boats that pollute the harbour,” reported France 24.com.

The strength of this material, once it is in tube format, is epic, with each tube reportedly able to absorb eight times its weight in oil as well as being easily washed and re-used. As seen in the images directly from the ground in Mauritius, locals are using straw and waste hair from salons in similar structures in order to absorb, and provide a barrier to, the leaking oil.

It appears that, in this instance, the ‘innovative’ technology that is being used is not one that relies on high-speed internet or futuristic solutions, but a resource that has been available to us since the dawn of humanity. Perhaps, sometimes, our industry needs to look into the past in order to find solutions for its future. If this technology were to be applied to marinas, rivers and ports around the world, as Gras has explained it could be, it potentially provides a cheap and sustainable method of keeping the waters which our industry inhabits cleaner and ‘greener’.


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