Is human hair biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: May 2, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

When I think about waste, what comes to my mind is the things we consume. 

I usually look at the packaging that I toss in the dustbin, and many. 

Products that I buy. But did you know that human air is a waste material? 

Surprisingly, I couldn’t agree anymore. Is human hair biodegradable?

Every year, approximately 300,000 tons of human air is thrown out as waste. 

And when it accumulates in aquatic grounds and streams due to uncontrolled disposal, it can pose serious environmental problems. 

You may be having a little of it, but where should that human hair go? 

That’s what I’ve been researching for a long time to address the best practice of disposal.

In our post today, we’ll examine the facts about hair. Also, what it takes to biodegrade if that is so. 

Is Human Hair Biodegradable? 

Yes, human hair does biodegrade. Because hair grows naturally, most people have torn apart on whether hair biodegrades or not when disposed of. 

Some assume that it has a neutral impact on the planet. It decomposes but depends on the environment.

If exposed to the right conditions, it will presumably break down much faster. 

But if you expose it to sunlight and fresh air, it may take hundreds of years to happen naturally. 

Hair is mostly protein, and proteins are always biodegradable. Despite that, its accumulation in oceans leads to clogging. 

So the best experts have come up with an integrated process through which you can make biofertilizer from it.

There are mixed reactions from most people about hair concerning the environment. 

Finally, with exposure to natural factors and time, it decomposes to its main components. That is, 

  • nitrogen, 
  • carbon and 
  • sulfur

The reality is that the decomposition rate of hair is slow, resulting in accumulation in the most painful areas. 

For one, it can clog vital drainage systems. 

The human body loses approximately 60 to 80 hairs per day. Where is all this waste going? It becomes notorious for clogging the shower drain. 

Are All Human Types Biodegradable?

A big yes. Although every type of human hair has a different shape and texture, most of these will biodegrade under the right conditions. 

They include:

  • straight hair
  • Curly hair
  • Wavy hair
  • Coil hair

How Long Does It Take for Human Hair To Decompose?

Around 2 years. Hair decomposes slowly, taking two to three years to break down completely. 

It’s the fact that human hair endures for some years before it decomposes alongside other softer tissues. 

Like fingernails, hair comes with keratin. This structural protein provides longevity to your hair by making it withstand the rigors of life. 

Keratin is highly durable than flesh and skin.

Keratin tends to resist the enzymes that promote decomposition. 

But environmental stress such as invasive plant growth and moisture are influential in tearing down keratin. 

Even after death, human hair remains intact for some time while the rest of the human body undergoes a natural decay. 

Microbes, insects, and rodents don’t eat hair; they speed up the overall process. 

It all depends on the environment in which it occurs. In summary, these conditions include:

  • direct soil
  • wind
  • moisture

In general, it will take about 2 years for your hair to decompose. 

Throughout the process, the elements to which hair is exposed will play a critical role. 

Does Hair Decompose in Soil?

Yes, it decomposes over time. 

Hair’s ability to break down in varying conditions is worth the consideration. 

In a fascinating discovery, a Russian scientist found Ancient Egyptian Mummies’ locks still intact despite surpassing 3000 years of age. 

However, as we know, mummies are prepared uniquely. We expect this to be possible.

And what about in soil? Shockingly, human hair waste at some point ends up in the ground. 

Meaning, it’s critical to know what happens when hair gets into contact with soil.

As proven and documented in scientific studies, hair takes around 1 to 2 years to decompose in the soil. 

In particular, the decomposition rate occurs faster in moist and warm areas. 

This even applies to human hair and animal hair – like cat hair and dog hair. 

Is Human Hair Bad for the Environment?

Yes, human hair poses environmental risks amid uncontrolled disposal. 

As mentioned, hair breaks down into some elements that include Nitrogen. 

When human hair decays, it produces traces of Nitrogen that cause water pollution. 

This can cause a disaster to the overall water table and supply. 

For this reason, it’s wise to identify the best ways of disposing of your hair. 

What type of hair is terrible for the environment?

We have different types of hair. Some are biodegradable, whereas others aren’t. 

Concerning the environment, it will highly depend on what hair is made of. We’ve already covered much about natural hair.

Synthetic hair: Most people use it for hair extensions and wigs. 

The manufacturer uses man-made elements to produce synthetic hair. 

These includes:

  • Vinyl
  • PVC
  • Polyester
  • Acrylic
  • Polyethylene
  • Silicone
  • Silk

Nowadays, synthetic hair has taken the industry by storm. 

It embodies a nice feel and looks of hair. It’s also easier to style without forgetting that people can afford it.  

This form of hair carries an impact on the environment. The most notable one is that synthetic hair is non-biodegradable.  

From PVC and Vinyl to polyester, all these materials contain plastic. 

Plastic can’t decompose quickly when thrown out, thereby environmental risks.

Ladies are investing in wigs for many years, but they aren’t passed on or shared. 

And because human hair isn’t easy to procure, human-made hair is the alternative to suiting your styling needs. 

To combat plastic-related products, some companies are striving to come up with sustainable options. 

A good example is Fiber hair by Raw Society Hair. It’s using banana trees to rival plastic. 

If you’re using synthetic hair, you need to be cautious about how you dispose of it. 

Usage of Human Hair Waste

Is there any reasonable use of human air? What happens to hair when you get your hair cut? 

Some barbers throw it in the dustbin, but it has many known eco-friendly uses. Let’s see.

  • Wig making. It’s pretty obvious. This helps hundreds of people to cope with losing their long, beautiful hair. The wig is luscious, durable, and looks natural. 
  • Make clothes. In some countries, people weave hair into the fabric to make clothes. For example, a hair bikini. 
  • As a fertilizer, you can ask for your hair, then add it to your compost pile. The hair will decompose quickly and become fertilizer. It also releases Nitrogen into the soil, thereby improving poor-quality soil. 
  • Protect the plant’s roots from insects and weather. Some companies use human hair to make gardening products like biodegradable mats that prevent weeds, too.
  • You are crafting a rope. This practice is prevalent in the US. You can twist hair fibers together, and the end product will be a strong rope. 
  • Fiber reinforcement material. Keratin, which is a protein, is incredibly insoluble, solid, and tough. 

Other uses include;

  • Used in test trees making
  • Create furniture
  • Nesting material

Is Human Hair Compostable?

Human hair is compostable. It can be an effective fertilizer for gardeners, which is one of its many uses. 

When composting it, add a balanced amount of wood ashes, greens as well. By doing so, you prevent it from forming lumps. 

Add water to hasten the decomposition process. A warmer and moist condition seems to work perfectly in this context. 

Most importantly, hair is a source of Nitrogen hence an excellent addition to your backyard compost. 

Alternatively, you can place it at the bottom of your plants. It will slowly decay, adding valuable nutrients to the soil.

Is Hair Recyclable?

Yes, 100% recyclable. Hair will decompose slowly. Eventually, it will degrade, but the timeframe can pose environmental risks. 

The best choice is to reuse it. Donate it to art and textile companies. They use it to make clothes, sculptures, ropes, and more.

After all, the demand for wigs and hair extensions is gaining traction. Many aid programs accept hair donations. For what? To make human-made hair for cancer patients who lose their natural hair during chemotherapy.

Let your choice be sustainable and suitable for other people. Scientists continue to discover possible uses of recycled hair. 

Ask for your trimmings and recycle them to minimize waste. 

Is Human Hair Good for Plants?

Gardeners use it as a fertilizer to grow plants like lettuce. 

According to the research, human hair contains around 15% nitrogen. Once hair waste starts to degrade and mineralize, it provides enough nutrients to plants, just like other chemical fertilizers used in horticulture.

Nitrogen is beneficial, and all plants need it to grow. 

Bottom Line

It’s of importance to dispose of your hair properly. Please don’t throw it in your trash bin, or leave it on the floor.

Human hair is biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. Add it to your compost pile, garden soil, or make better use of it –probably crafting a rope, making clothes, among others. 

Consider these options and protect the environment for future generations. 

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