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Mats From Human And Dog Hair
From an article by VeldTalk
Hair today - a mat tomorrow!
Johan Nortje, founder of Acublot, is one of those people who can see potential in what the rest of us would regard as waste. He produces oil-absorbing mats from human and dog hair.
In a water-scarce country such as South Africa the danger and cost of contaminating our water tables with oil is serious. “Old oil” is often spilt or discarded without any thought as to the effects on soil or water. According to the annual report for hazardous waste, only 44% of waste/used oil is recycled annually, which means 67 000 tons of oil end up in landfills every year!
Johan grew up on a farm near Upington in the Northern Cape and started off as a hair stylist. “Living in the country made me very aware of the environment and I wanted to link environmental solutions to my daily trade. The tragic 1989 Valdez sea oil spill, and the fact that I knew hair could absorb a lot of oil, planted the seed. In the early 1900s soldiers used to shave their hair and use it to absorb oil spills in the field. So I started experimenting in my kitchen!”
By 2010, he had designed a range of natural mats, filled with cut human salon and dog parlour hair, that could absorb between 1.2 and 12 litres of oil.
“There were times when I sold Coke bottles for extra income and ended the month with cents in my pocket,” says Johan, now owner of both Acublot and Isjon Intercoiffure in Sandton, Gauteng. “But the hard work and perseverance, and perhaps most importantly - unfailing belief in my dream - paid off.”
Sasol liked the idea and helped Johan to take it further. His production facility can now weave enough 100% natural mats to make a significant impact - from a waste product otherwise destined for landfill. “Last year alone, we collected more than 24 tons of hair. It also created employment for jobless and retired citizens, who collect the hair.”
Acublot offers a range of mats with the added advantage that when saturated with oil, the mat as well as the oil may be recovered and recycled.