“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard.
The circular economy, where resources are reused and put back into the economy rather than being thrown ‘away’, is built upon this mindset of sustainability.
As this mindset pervades all facets of life, even the fashion industry has taken huge strides to ensure that nothing that cannot be rebuilt, repaired, refurbished, recycled, or composted is strictly prohibited from production. Of all the bounties of nature, wool is among the most circular, being naturally sustainable and healthy for the environment.
This article delves deeper into the inherent circularity of wool.
Wool’s Suitability for Circular Design
The Australian wool market is one of the largest in the world, with global demand for Australian sheep’s wool increasing. The main reasons cited are the wool’s unmatched quality and warmth. But what sets wool apart from other knit fabrics such as polyester or acrylic is that wool is a natural animal fibre, not synthetic.
Hence, inherently, it is designed to be biodegradable and can be sourced sustainably. Besides this, wool is also highly recyclable and reusable. You must be aware of its durability if you own a pure woollen garment. A woollen sweater can be easily worn for 20 to 30 winter seasons and even passed on to upcoming generations.
However, once the garment has reached the end of its first life, it complies with the principles of the circular economy by being recyclable. Each fibre can be put to new use. And even when the fabric has reached the sunset of its utility, it can be set to rest sustainably. Wool fibres quickly disintegrate in soil or water and even offer precious nutrients to the soil – the quality of an ultimate circular fibre.
Unconventional Uses for Circular Wool
Besides the conventional knitted thermal wear such as sweaters, jumpers, coats, and socks, what other (unconventional) uses promote wool’s circularity? Let’s find out.
Did you know that wool has an extremely high flame retardancy? As a result, it can easily withstand temperatures as high as 600-degree Celsius. Plus, it does not melt, shrinks, emit odour, or stick to the skin.
As a result, wool can be used to manufacture firefighter uniforms without needing any chemical treatment.
Carpets and Other Soft Furnishings
Wool is ideal for manufacturing everything from household upholstery such as cushion covers, blankets, and bedsheets to high-quality carpets. These furnishings generally have padding underneath to ensure yarn ends are not wasted.
Also, lampshades, curtains, and wallpapers made of wool are available to make the space warm and cosy for those chilly Australian winters!
Being biodegradable and full of vital nutrients, wool wastes can be converted into mulch pads. The process usually involves green hydrolysis and superheated water, transforming wool wastes into nitrogen-rich fertilisers.
This offers dual benefits to the environment.
A Final Word
Yes, wool is an innately sustainable fabric. It can potentially drive the fashion industry toward building a more circular economy. However, the circularity and sustainability of wool depend upon the care taken during processing.
So, when purchasing woollen garments, ensure you do some research on the processing ethics of the manufacturer. Once you are assured about the pick you are making and have the right reviews, go for it!