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Peru oil spill: The unusual way citizens are helping with the clear up

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Clean up operations using the 'sausages' to soak up oil
Clean up operations using the 'sausages' to soak up oil   -   Copyright  AFP
By Hannah Brown  with AP

The volcanic eruption in Tonga on 14 January 2022 sent shock waves across the globe. A tanker unloading crude oil just off the coast of Lima, Peru, almost 10,000km away, was hit by strong waves and caused around 6,000 barrels of crude to spill into the ocean.

The Peruvian government declared an environmental emergency after announcing that 21 beaches on the Pacific coast were contaminated by the oil spill. Officials have described it as the city’s “worst ecological disaster” in recent history.

With a mammoth clean up task ahead, the government has put out a slightly unusual request to its citizens. It wants to collect up their hair.

Why donate hair to an oil spill?

Several environmental collectives made the call for the hair donation through social media, and the municipality of Lima coordinated with hairdressers to set up various collection points across the city.

Hundreds of Peruvians are queueing up at sites where hairdressers trim and collect donor’s hair.

The hair is used to produce large sausage-shaped devices that are placed in the ocean to soak up the spilled oil.

"[The oil spill] is very regrettable, but little by little, we are all coming together, all Peruvians are supporting this way," says Rebeca Guitierrez, a 26 year-old hair donor.

"We all want to lend a hand."

The hair is used to produce large sausage-shaped devices that are placed in the ocean to soak up the spilled oil.

Hair (and fur) naturally repel water but absorb oil. One kilogram of human hair can soak up around 8 kilograms of oil.

Watch the video above to learn more.

Video editor • Hannah Brown