21 January 2015

Milkweed fiber useful for oil spill cleanup

As reported by Canada's CBC News:
Franç​ois Simard, creator of Protec-Style, has a contract with Parks Canada to supply national parks with oil-spill kits. The kits come with various sizes of absorbent tubes filled with milkweed fibre. Simard says milkweed has a unique ability to repel water, which makes it perfect for oil spills on land or water.

"You can leave an absorbent [milkweed] sock in water and it will only absorb the oil..."

The white fibres that you can often see floating in the fall breeze are light and hollow and able to absorb four times more oil than polypropylene, the artificial product now used to clean up spills.

Simard has set up a co-operative of 20 farmers in Quebec to grow 325 hectares of milkweed. He says there are another 35 growers on a waiting list.

"It's less expensive to use milkweed to collect the oil that was spilled in nature because you have more capacity, you need less absorbent, therefore there is less of a cost of disposal," said Simard.  
And of course the benefits to Monarch butterflies are obvious:
"There were so many butterflies in the field that people on the road … had to stop," he says. "They were wondering what was happening. It was just growing 20 hectares that made the whole difference."
More at the link.  Photo from my files.  Posted for my aunt, who in her childhood used to harvest milkweed seed pods for use in making life preservers for the armed forces.

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