New factsheets show wool's environmental credentials

Monday, 20 November 2017



Many key facts illustrating wool's renewability, biodegradability, and ultimate environmental footprint have been compiled in a series of factsheets, free to anyone wanting to know the facts and promote the natural fibre.
These factsheets are a science-based resource that point to peer-reviewed, published studies. Developed to help underpin the credentials of wool as an environmentally responsible natural fibre, the factsheets cover wool's natural production, decomposition and the measurement of the wool's environmental footprint.
With the increasing prioritisation of sustainable resources as consumer textile choice, Merino wool shines out as a leading natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre. Scientific studies are revealing that synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon have detrimental impacts on the environment. One recent revelation is the pollution and toxicity problems caused by micro-plastic fibres in natural ecosystems. Whilst synthetic fibres do degrade with physical exposure to the elements, they never fully decompose and this causes pollution in waterways, landfill and debris. Natural fibres, such as wool, biologically degrade and return to the environment as nutrients, elements and proteins. Because of this quality, wool is considered an environmentally responsible choice in textiles.
As one of the world's oldest known fibres to be used in textiles, dating back to 1500 BC, wool's natural and renewable production has been the obvious choice in the past and remains the choice for the future as the demand for sustainable textiles continues to increase. Wool is grown all year round by Australian Merino sheep with a simple mix of water, air, sunshine and grass. Once wool is in service in the textile industry, it has longevity of use, is reusable, recyclable and is eventually biodegradable. This versatility - spanning between the cradle to grave life of wool - lowers its overall environmental impact.
As the 2014 study Biodegradability of Wool: Soil Burial Biodegradation has shown, wool naturally decomposes in as little as three to four months, returning vital nutrients such as nitrogen, sulphur and magnesium to the soil.1 The McNeil study has also shown that when wool is broken down by microorganisms the return of these nutrients to the soil can improve the dry matter yield by up to 82%.2 Instead of stripping our soils of nutrients and fertility, the production and decomposition of wool has the capacity to enrich soil and self-sustain the production cycle.
Wool's biodegradability, together with the long service life of wool garments - on average 50% longer than cotton garments as evidenced in the Neilson Company report - reflect a lighter environmental footprint.3 With greater scope in emerging scientific studies that considers the sustainability of different fibres, not just in the production phase but with consideration of the broader impact fibres have on marine life, natural habitation and environmental pollution, the story of wool can be better understood as the sustainable textile fibre that it is.
You can find the factsheets here:

Wool is 100% biodegradable
Wool is natural and renewable
Measuring wool's environmental footprint

Released by:
Marius Cuming Australian Wool Innovation, Corporate CommunicationsEmail: marius.cuming@wool.comMobile: +61 400 305 716
1 Hodgson A.,Collie S. (December 2014), Biodegradability of Wool: Soil Burial Biodegradation. Presented at 43rd Textile Research Symposium in Christchurch; McNeil et al. (2007). Closed-loop wool carpet recycling, Resources, conservation & recycling, 51: 220-4. 2 McNeil et al. (2007). Closed-loop wool carpet recycling. Resources, conservation & recycling 51: 220-4. 3 The Nielsen Company: Global Wardrobe Audit All Countries, 2012. Prepared for Australian Wool Innovation.