How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings

Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping Newsletter!

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Thailand National Park Officials Mailed Trash Back to Litterbugs

Spiderstock/iStock via Getty Images
Spiderstock/iStock via Getty Images

If hefty fines aren't enough to stop people from littering in Thailand's national parks, officials hope that good, old-fashioned guilt-tripping will do the trick. As The New York Times reports, Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand responded to a recent littering offense by mailing abandoned trash back to the litterbugs who left it there.

The responsible party left behind a tent filled with trash after camping overnight in Khao Yai. In Thailand, littering in a national park is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $16,000 fine. The park officials took a less conventional approach to this particular crime. After cross-referencing equipment rental forms with a discarded prescription bottle, they were able to track down the offenders and mail them their forgotten garbage.

The clear bag of trash came with a note. “You have forgotten some of your belongings at the Khao Yai National Park,” it read. “Please let us return these to you.” Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand's environment minister, referenced the incident in a Facebook post, writing, “I will pick up every single piece of your trash, pack them well in a box, and mail it to your home as a souvenir." In addition to getting a package of trash in the mail, the unidentified campers have also been banned from staying in the park overnight.

Officials tasked with protecting the environment have seen firsthand the damage litter can cause. Plastics can take centuries to break down, and in that time they pose a serious threat to wildlife. Trash that builds up in places where people seek refuge can also be bad for their mental health. A 2015 study found that seeing litter on a beach counters the restorative qualities of being in nature.

[h/t The New York Times]