Author(s): Gupta A
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.