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The new life of hair
Starting form the fact that on average, one human hair can hold up to 100 grams of weight, Sanne Visser presented a recycling project wich transforms human hair in resistant ropes.
Sanne Visser presented her hair recycling project at Designersblock during the London Design Festival, answering the task of how can we use the human hair waste stream so to create new materials and design outputs.
“Human hair is a natural resource that will be increasing in the future since the world population is rapidly rising”, explains Sanne Visser. The UK alone ‘creates’ around 6.5 million kilograms of human hair waste annually, which mostly ends up in landfills or slowly decays in the environment. This causes several problems for the environment itself and human health, such as the release of toxic gasses or choking the drainage systems. However, human hair has many valuable properties: it is high in tensile strength, thermal insulation, flexibility, oil-absorption and it’s light weight.
The New Age of Trichology project explores the pure potential of hair as a raw material, reducing waste, environmental problems and the pressure on other non-renewable materials. The project consists of a range of utilitarian objects and tools that helps create a system all the way from collection through to the end application.
The designer focused on the tensile strength of the human hair fibre, where spinning and ropemaking techniques are applied. The system is a closed loop system in a way that the raw material collected at the beginning remains additive free and can go straight back into nature at the end of it’s life cycle, through composting or recycling. On average, one human hair can hold up to 100 grams of weight, depending on the person’s diet, health, environment, ethnical background and treatment of hair. So, potentially a whole head of hair could withstand a weight of 12 tonnes.
Looking at the differences of hair type by ethnical background, there are a few clear facts about the hair fibres. For example, Asian hair growth is the fastest, about 15 cm a year, whereas Caucasian hair grows 13cm a year and Afro hair 10cm a year. Focusing on its strength, African hair seems to be the most fragile, breaking under a strain of 60 grams after an elongation of 40%. At the other end of the scale, Asian hair is the strongest, withstanding a weight of 100 grams and an elongation of 55% for a single hair. The products below are all made from Asian human hair waste, starting with a 2-ply yarn (minimum breaking load of 32kgs) which are then turned into ropes.