May 20, 2010; Source: Herald Tribune | Clearly it’s going to take a big, bold, hairy, and audacious idea to figure out how to stop the gigantic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some volunteers, however, think they have the hairy part of the equation figured out. According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, people in Florida and other states are donating their hair, as well as fur from their dogs, to be used to create absorbent booms to help soak up some of the oil.

People are shedding their hair in response to a nationwide call from a San Francisco nonprofit recycling organization, a Matter of Trust. The group claims it has already collected about a half a ton of hair, fur, and wool from around the country. The freshly sheared hair and fur is stuffed inside pantyhose and wrapped in plastic mesh to fashion the booms. In addition to hair salons and pet shops in Florida contributing to the drive, Hooters restaurants in Sarasota are helping out by collecting pantyhose.

If this story has you scratching your head in disbelief, suspend your judgment a little more. As the newspaper reports, at least one expert, and himself a former skeptic, says using hair to soak up oil can work. Richard Charter, who is a senior policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife, recalls that hair helped crews clean up an oil spill off San Francisco in 2007. “Human hair and pet fur have a very unique ability to latch on to oil, like a magnet or an adhesive,” Charter said. “I’ve never seen another material work as well.” In keeping with NPQ’s pledge to keep you up to date on the latest news you need to know, consider this a heads up.—Bruce Trachtenberg