VERSAILLES, France (Reuters) - Louis XIV would probably turn pale at the idea of losing his flowing silky locks, but staff at the Palace of Versailles, his former residence near Paris, can now get a free haircut every month thanks to a company that specialises in recycling hair.
Human hair contains keratin, a protein that absorbs oil and so can be used to clean up the environment.
It can also replace plastics in agriculture and horticulture and can help to cure skin conditions, said Clement Baldellou, a co-founder of the startup company Capillum, which collects hair from about 200 salons around France.
"Hair is a natural absorbent and can absorb up to eight times its weight in oil," he said.
More than one million French people got a haircut every day, said Baldellou, providing free of charge a resource that can easily be recycled for environmental and medical purposes.
"This represents 4,000 tonnes of generated waste (annually)... That's an enormous amount of waste which usually goes in the bin and so we decided to take the hair out of the waste sector," he told Reuters Television.
Nearby in the makeshift salon a sign read "1kg of hair = 200 litres of water saved."
A team of local trainee hairdressers was busy working on staff from the palace, the grandiose residence that is synonymous with Louis, France's 'Sun King', who reigned from 1643 to 1715.
Versailles employee Isabelle Lafont was grateful to get her hair cut so conveniently close to where she works.
"It's a very good idea because as we work we don't always have the time to go to the hairdresser's," she said.
(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence)