Composting Hair

Compacted Clumber spaniel hair in a GTech vacuum cleaner.

 Human hair can be composted it has a high nitrogen content making it a good “Green”, it also contains hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and sulphur according to Rodale this is the same as Bone meal.  Hair decomposes slowly and can form a mat easily in the bin.  Hair from pets and other animals can also be composted. Dog hair can be obtained both from home grooming and may make up a considerable proportion of the waste in the vacuum cleaner (I have two Clumber spaniels who shed throughout the year) providing a constant supply of vacuumed hair.

 Hair can also be obtained from local hairdressers or dog groomers but do be aware that any waste that comes from a commercial activity is business waste and this includes waste produced from running a business from home. See below. (Be aware that Regulations may apply to disposal and carriage of trade waste)

Composting Hair

Hair can form lumps (mat) when being composted unless added to the bin in a small quantity to form a thin layer or mixed with other Greens either before or as it is added to the bin. The bin should be aerated every two or three days for the first week or to speed the composting process the more hair being added at any time the more important it is to mix it well to prevent compaction which might reduce air circulation and create anaerobic conditions. Be care not to overload the bin with hair. It should only form a small proportion of the Green material being composted.

Rodale describes a technique for composting hair developed by William Stafford which will deal with larger quantities. The Stafford recipe uses 10 pounds Hair cut ¾ long, 20 pounds of cottonseed meal and 11/2yards of leafmold. This is mixed and watered and composted for 30-60 days being turned regularly until rotted. It was then used as a mulch round rose bushes.

Environmental writer Janet Harriet quoted on the GRIST website suggests that dyed of bleached hair “may introduce toxic chemicals into your compost,”

Research on the composting of tannery hair waste found that the optimum conditions were:  temperature 40 - 50 C, moisture content 55%, pH 7.0 and a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 35:1. As this is the case hot composting will be more effective than cold


Hair can also be used as a feedstock in a wormery dog, human and cat hair is regularly used by home composters. Hair mixed with cattle manure has been used very successfully as a feedstock in the wormery creating compost within a couple of months.



(PDF) Parameters for composting tannery hair waste. Available from:


Rodale.  The complete Book of Composting. Rodale Books


Transport and disposal of Trade waste

  The management & disposal of commercial and trade waste and recycling materials is controlled by legislation and ensuring compliance for a small business or when homeworking can be difficult. Basically, all waste produced through work is “Trade Waste”. This will include, in addition to hair, compostable items such as packaging from lunches, discarded food, used teabags and coffee grounds, discarded paperwork, cardboard and packaging, remnants of anything that is produced during the manufacture of goods or delivery of services.  In 2010 an environmental aware UK barber was been warned that taking home hair clippings from clients' hair to add to his compost was illegal as it was trade waste. If collected by the council as it would have been sent landfill.

Under the carriage of waste regulations anyone transporting waste as part of their normal business must register for a Waste Carriers Licence. We are seeking advice from the Environmental Agency on the collection and carriage of waste hair and coffee grounds and will add their response when it is received.