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Five Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean Up Oil Spills

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Where did the wildlife go? That's a scary question, but one that scientists and observers are posing in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The solution deployed to clean up the 210 million gallons of Louisiana crude spilled was the oil dispersant Corexit. Three years later, the evidence suggests that this wasn't the right way. Those who've come in contact with the substance are reporting disturbing symptoms - nose bleeds, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and others. Wildlife in the area is also suffering; fish eggs and coral larvae are reportedly dying as a result. The long-term impact on a multitude of organisms that depend on the health of this region's ecosystem, will undoubtedly demonstrate similarly disastrous results.

Are there oil spill remediation solutions that do not compromise the health of the local ecosystem? There are. The following are some of environmentally-sustainable ways to respond to the next man-made environmental disasters.

Let there be Hair!

One innovative solution is to stuff nylons with human hair and place them at the site of an oil spill (as was the case with the BP Deepwater Horizon). The idea came by a chance viewing 11 years earlier of a similar technique used to clean up oil after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. They used fur and the viewer conjectured that if fur could do it, maybe hair could as well. When tested, hair picked up "a gallon of oil in less than two minutes for about $2."

Putting the Functional in Fungus

Certain oil-munching mushrooms are natural absorbents used to clean up oil spills. This is a process called bioremediation, in which native or introduced organisms absorb oil, break it down and render it much easier to clean up. G-Clean uses a similar technology of bioremediation, via a plant-based, bioremediation agent. This solution relies on colloidal chemistry. Micelles are formed which penetrate and immediately begin breaking down long-chain hydrocarbons into smaller units. Once this occurs, resident bacteria are able to ingest and biodegrade via bioremediation. The product is ranked as Ultimate Biodegradable, the highest biodegradability ranking as determined by ASTM Standards (2.1 ASTM D-5864).

Pine Shavings to the Rescue!

Who knew that pine shavings, the stuff generally discarded at lumber yards, could have such a useful second-life? Like hair, pine shavings are an effective (and environmentally-friendly) oil spill absorbent option. The one drawback is its smell, which can cause respiratory problems for some wildlife.

Making Hay out of the Beach

Another naturally helpful substance for oil spills is hay, which can also provide a nice sideline for local farmers.

Bees are Amazing!

We need them for flowers and plants and now it turns out these workhorses can help us with cleaning up oil spills. Beeswax balls (or microcapsules) have hydrocarbons that stick to and "eat" oil. Once the maximum oil has been ingested, these balls explode, releasing enzymes, water, and carbon dioxide -providing a healthy snack for marine organisms.

Bonus: Peat Moss

This soft, fuzzy, almost cute stuff is tough. Impenetrable and sponge-like, peat moss is natural soil erosion control. Used for oil spill cleanup, it serves as a natural catcher's mitt that collects oil and makes it easy to retrieve.

Sources:

  1. "11 Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean Up American's Next Oil Spill" from Takepart: http://www.takepart.com/photos/oil-spill-cleanup-alternatives-to-corexit/much-ado-about-mushrooms.
  2. "G-Clean Industrial Cleaner" from E&B Green Solutions: http://www.ebgreensolutions.com/products.

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