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Is Hair Biodegradable? Here’s What to Know About Hair Waste

When you hear the word “waste,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Isn’t it the case with the goods we consume? For example, food, packaging, and products. Humans create waste from their bodies, just like natural hair and not synthetic hair extensions.

Hair is a man’s and woman’s crowning glory. Except for a few spots in the body, such as the soles of the feet, the lips, and other areas, human hair grows all over the human body and continues to grow even until death in human remains.

While cutting or trimming hair is the simplest way to care for or style long or damaged hair, have you ever wondered what happens to all that hair?

As a result, environmentally conscious individuals will inquire and ask queries such as, is hair biodegradable? Is human hair biodegradable?

Is it possible to compost hair? Many people visit a salon or barbershop daily to have their hair cut, and you’ll see the hair on salon floors. Picture how much hair is collected in a day or even a year. Without a doubt, it is a mountain of hair waste.

Suppose you want to live sustainably and wish to manage waste efficiently or minimize waste, particularly hair waste, to minimize environmental impact.

In that case, this article will explore further into this subject.

What is Hair Waste?

A Man Getting a Haircut

It is cut waste of hair, and hair waste starts from home, salons, and barbershops and is thrown away. Our planet is facing a lot of waste and different kinds of waste.

Human hair waste is part of a rising environmental problem connected with waste in most areas around the world, and it is particularly prevalent in Asia. Hair waste also starts in not proper disposable or usage of hairs that are either from a human body or an animal hair.

Unfortunately, it is generated in large quantities. For example, consider that every time you or other people go to a hairdresser or barbershop for a haircut, your hair contributes to the growing stockpile of human hair waste.

Hair does not decompose fast, so it will continue to be an environmental hazard and problem for many years unless a new use for it is discovered.

Aside from the natural human hair, there was also synthetic hair waste. For years, synthetic hair wigs have been used in fashion, by patients, in shows, and more. The lifespan of the system wig that human hair is far different is stronger and can be used longer.

With the rate at which the world’s population is growing, this problem will only continue to rise tremendously. Is there a solution to this problem? Continue to read to learn more insights.

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Is Hair Biodegradable?

Yes, hair is biodegradable because hair grows naturally; most people are divided and confused on whether or not hair biodegrades when it is discarded. Only natural human hair and pet hair are biodegradable.

It is likely to degrade significantly more quickly if subjected to the appropriate conditions. When you expose it to sunlight or fresh air and do not properly manage it, it could take years for the decomposition to occur organically.

Various human hair is also biodegradable, ranging from varied shapes and textures to different lengths and thicknesses. The majority of these will biodegrade when exposed to the proper conditions.

Even though it is biodegradable, it may cause blockage in the ocean and waterways since the decomposing rate of hair is prolonged. As a result, efficient waste management is required before the garbage becomes something beneficial to the environment.

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Is Human Hair Good for Composting?

Yes, Human hair is a biodegradable material; therefore, it is good for composting. One of its numerous uses is as a fertilizer for gardeners, which is only one of the many things it can do. Human hair is a rich nitrogen source, making it a perfect addition to your backyard compost piles. Hair breaks down slowly and takes time to complete and decompose.

Hair is compostable since it is biodegradable; thus, you can compost it. Compost is nothing more than organic materials broken down at the composting facility. Hair can be composted together with other compostable items.

Composting hair waste aids in the retention of water in sandy soils, the health of your home or business, and the preservation of the environment.

Other placement options include placing it at the base of your potted plants. It will decompose over time, slowly releasing nutrients into the soil. Alternatively, while composting natural hair, you can include a balanced amount of wood ashes, greens, and other organic matter.

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Is Animal Hair Good for Composting?

Happy Brown Dog

If you wonder where dog hair is a good addition to your composting, the answer is yes! Animals’ hair can be composted, too. If you have a dog and are interested in living more sustainably, this is excellent news for you.

Natural hair from humans, dogs, and cats is excellent for composition. Dog and cat hair is a great addition to your compost pile. Pet fur, like human hair, is high in nitrogen, one of the two primary components necessary in a compost pile.

If you groom or take your pet to a dog groomer, you may remove or take the animal hair or fur and place it in the compost pile.

It is a win-win situation for both you and the environment because you can get rid of your pet’s dander and hair while improving the soil and plants in your garden.

If your dog has been treated with a flea or worm medication, often administered to the back of their neck and left on for a few hours, you may not compost it immediately.

Some composters prefer not to compost the fur immediately or right after getting the trim fur, even from vacuumed fur, for they might have to get synthetic fibers from home. Synthetic fibers are not good for composting it might not hinder giving your plant nutrients and cause harm.

For the most part, the reasoning behind this is self-explanatory: the treatment contains compounds and chemicals that have the potential to soak into the soil and contaminate the soil, plants, and any subsequent water bodies.

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Is Hair Bad for the Environment?

Short Hair

Yes, even biodegradable hair poses environmental risks when disposed of irresponsibly. Natural human hair decomposes into a number of elements, among which is nitrogen.

In addition, when hair decays, it releases traces of nitrogen into the environment, causing water contamination. As mentioned, hair decomposes slowly, so if it is not properly disposed of, it might clog waterways.

Aside from natural human hair, other types of hair are not biodegradable, such as synthetic hair, commonly used for hair extensions and wigs by the general public. Because this hair does not biodegrade, it threatens the environment.

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How Long Does Hair Decomposing Take?

Hair decomposes at a slower rate than most other biodegradable substances. It may take two to three years for human hair to decompose entirely, although this will vary depending on the elements the hair has been exposed to overtime.

Soil, wind, and moisture are among the factors that make up this composition. It’s the fact that human hair can last for several years before decomposing along with other softer tissues, such as the skin. Because of the presence of keratin, hair does not fall out as quickly as it should when it grows.

Instead, it is intended to be long-lasting. In the same way that fingernails are made of keratin, so is hair. It is a structural protein that helps your hair last longer and is stronger by preventing it from decomposing immediately as it grows. Hair will eventually decompose; however, it may take some time.

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Other Usage of Human Hair Waste

Long Black Hair

Human hair is considered a waste material in most parts of the world, and its accumulation in waste streams causes several environmental risks. Is there any justifiable use for human hair?

When you trim your hair, you might assume it will end up as waste disposed of in the garbage. If you own or know someone who owns a set of hair salons or barbershops, you may wonder where you should dispose of or use the hairs your customers have cut.

In addition to being considered as one’s crowning glory, natural hair is also well-known for its environmentally beneficial uses.

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Wig or Hair Extensions

It’s quite self-explanatory. Wigs or hair extensions have assisted hundreds of people in coping with hair loss of their long, gorgeous locks, as well as people who want to look good.

Cancer patients often use wigs, aside from cancer patients, people who genetically can’t grow hair, or individuals who have problems with hair loss, as well as by the fashion industry.

Human hair wigs are mainly derived from Asia, India, Eastern Europe, as well as in South America. Some of this came from hair donations or sold into wig companies in any hair length.

The wig is lush, long-lasting, and has a natural appearance. Many fabulous wigs are made of human hair.

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Human Hair Wigs

The most significant distinction between human and synthetic hair wigs is that human hair wigs have the most natural appearance and feel. The hair is silky and has a sheen and movement that are difficult to achieve with synthetic hair, but it offers a natural replacement hair.

Many human hair wigs may be styled, permed, and colored much like your own, making them a great alternative to natural hair. On the other hand, synthetic hair wigs have a convenient style retention feature, which means you can get even the wig, which will revert to its original style.

Unlike synthetic hair wigs, you have the option of selecting a texture that is similar to your style with human hair wigs. This is not the case with synthetic hair wigs. Because they are created from actual hair, human hair wigs are often more expensive than synthetic ones.

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Synthetic Hair Wigs

This type of wig is ideal for synthetic wigs since this type of wig or synthetic hair extensions gives significant environmental risks. Synthetic wigs have a shorter life span than a human hair wig, and the wig appears more natural.

In the case of synthetic hair, the color selections are virtually limitless; they can range from natural to abstract, exotic to magnificent. You may get blue, black, or even blonde hair.

They are significantly less expensive than human hair wigs. Synthetic wigs may not last as long as human hair wigs. Therefore, you may replace your wig more often using synthetic wigs instead of natural human hair extensions.

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Human hair is also beneficial for achieving greener plants in your garden! When you have a haircut, you can ask for your hair to be trimmed and brought with you to your compost bin, or you may also use dog hair so that it can be used to generate fertilizer for your plants.

Hair contributes to the improvement of poor-quality soil, and it is one of the natural and traditional fertilizers that release nitrogen into your plant’s soil or soil in your garden.

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Pest control and plant protection 

Another application for human hair waste is that it can manage pests. It is turned into hair mats that can keep pests away from fields. As proved by Benton Farms, human hair can also benefit farmers by reducing the number of pests, such as rabbits and deer that enter their fields.

Farmers in Florida who utilized human hair mats to repel pests were able to save a significant amount of money on pesticide purchases. Some companies use human hair to manufacture gardening items such as biodegradable mats that prevent weeds.

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You might find this application of natural hair a little bizarre given that hair is often worn on the head, yet in some nations, they weave hair into the fabric to create clothing.

A graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Alix Bizet, has created a range of clothing made entirely of human hair.

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Because of its Keratin content, human hair is super strong, making it a feasible alternative for sutures in most surgical procedures. Human hair has been used in surgery and medical science since the Middle Ages in Europe, so using hair in such procedures is not a new practice.

In addition, because hair filaments have a relatively small diameter, they have the potential to be a suture thread used for facial wounds.

This is done by removing a strand of hair from the scalp; however, the hair must be long enough to sew sutures and stitches in any surgery. After that, it is cleaned to ensure it won’t cause infection. Once sterilized, it can be used in the same manner as a conventional suture.

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Pollution Prevention and Control

Human hair debris is a fantastic choice for pollution management because it is biodegradable and a wonderful absorbent. Hair has an organic material and a high binding affinity for oil, so it may easily absorb and hold on to the oil it encounters.

As a result, natural hair booms and mats can recover up to 98 percent of the oil spilled after an oil spill.  The people of Mauritius, located in East Africa, have taken mass haircuts and hair donations to clean up an oil spill in 2020 that occurred after a Japanese ship collided with a coral reef off the island’s shore.

Aside from contributing to oil pollution management, human hair can also aid in absorbing pollutants such as formaldehyde and toxic substances such as mercury from the waterways or sewage sludge.


Is hair biodegradable or not?

Hair is biodegradable, meaning it can be broken down naturally by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. However, the biodegradation rate can vary depending on several factors, such as the length and thickness of the hair, the environment it is in, and other substances that can affect the process. Hair can take several years to fully biodegrade, but it can also decompose more quickly under certain conditions, such as in composting systems.

Does hair decompose after being cut?

Hair is biodegradable and will decompose after it is cut. The decomposition rate depends on several factors, such as the length of the hair, the environment in which it is placed, and the presence of microorganisms that break down organic matter. In general, hair can take several years to decompose completely, but it will eventually break down into its constituent elements.

Does hair biodegrade in water?

Hair is biodegradable, but the rate at which it decomposes depends on various factors, including the environmental conditions in which it is present. Hair is composed of keratin, a protein that microorganisms can break down. In water, hair can take up to several years to biodegrade, as the microorganisms that break down keratin require oxygen, which is less abundant in water than in soil.

Does human hair decompose?

Yes, human hair is biodegradable. When disposed of properly, it can decompose naturally and serve as a source of nutrients for plants and other organisms. Hair has been used in composting to help break down organic matter and enrich soil. However, the rate of decomposition can vary depending on factors such as temperature, moisture, and the presence of other organic materials.

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