Table of Contents
Journal of Waste Management
Volume 2014, Article ID 498018, 17 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/498018
Review Article

Human Hair “Waste” and Its Utilization: Gaps and Possibilities

National Institute of Science, Technology, and Development Studies, Pusa Gate, K. S. Krishnan Marg, New Delhi 110012, India

Received 30 September 2013; Accepted 19 February 2014; Published 27 April 2014

Academic Editor: David Bolzonella

Copyright © 2014 Ankush Gupta. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Human hair is considered a waste material in most parts of the world and its accumulation in waste streams causes many environmental problems; however, it has many known uses. Preventing waste of such a material requires both addressing the problems in the current usage and developing its utilization systems at locations where they are missing. With focus on developing systematic utilization of human hair waste, this paper first reviews the possible uses of human hair gathered from large scale trades, local/traditional knowledge, upcoming innovations, and scientific research; along with the socioeconomic systems that have evolved around the known uses. Concerns and gaps in these systems are identified and possible directions to address these gaps are discussed. For expanding hair utilization to new contexts, important considerations such as knowledge, skill, and technology requirements and potential markets are discussed. Finally, a policy framework for socially and environmentally healthy utilization of human hair is outlined. This study shows that human hair is a highly versatile material with significant potential in several critical areas such as agriculture, medical applications, construction materials, and pollution control. Moreover, these uses are diverse enough for entrepreneurs ranging from unskilled to highly technical individuals and for the wide variety of human hair waste available in different locations.