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SUSTAINABILITY

Design for circularity with wool

Wool, by nature a circular fibre, can help brands enter more easily into the development of circular products.

 

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Wool. Designed by nature. Designed for life.

WATCH NOW: This video explains why wool is an inherently circular fibre, acting as a launchpad to help achieve circular design practices.

Renew

Use renewable resources

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Every year, sheep produce a new fleece, making wool a completely renewable fibre source. Wool is grown by the simple mix of sunshine, water, grass and fresh air. That is, wool grows on a sheep’s body because of the proteins, lipids and minerals naturally absorbed  through their diet, in much the same was as human’s grow hair.

Environmental factors including climate, day length, soil type and feed type all contribute and influence the production of sheep’s wool. There is a use for every part of the wool fleece, nothing is wasted.

If a sheep’s fleece is not shorn seasonally it can build up and potentially negatively affect the sheep’s health.

 

Reuse

Keep materials and products in use for a long time

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The number of times a garment is worn significantly influences the overall environmental impact of that garment. To reduce the environmental impact of garments, designers need to create garments that are designed for long life. For designers and brands to do this, here are 5 design steps to consider:

  1. Choose quality fibres that are durable
  2. Design garments that meet the needs of the wearer
  3. Use quality dyes, finishes and construction methods
  4. Design garments that don’t go out of fashion
  5. Design garments that can evolve with the needs of the wearer, especially adjustable fit

Wool is a quality fibre and is typically kept longer than other garments with an active service first life estimated to be 20-30 years. Wool is highly valued in the resale and recycling markets and can be recycled in the closed-loop and open-loop recycling systems.

Wools performance attributes, such as odour, stain and wrinkle resistance also ensure that wool garments can be laundered less often and retain their ‘as-new’ appearance for longer.

Remove & Reduce

Remove pollution & reduce waste

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Globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year and the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up on landfill sites every second.[1]

Wool is made of a 100% natural biodegradable protein, similar to that found in human hair. When a wool product reaches its end-of-life and is disposed of, the wool fibre readily decomposes in soil, slowly releasing valuable nutrients and carbon back into the earth, acting like a fertiliser. Wool is also completely biodegradable in marine environments.[2] This means that wool does not contribute to microplastic pollution.

Wool uses 18% less energy than polyester and nearly 70% less water than cotton to produce 100 sweaters.

[1] A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future. 2017, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
[2] Collie. S, Brorens. P, Hassan. M, Fowler, I. (2021) Marine biodegradation behavior of wool and other textile fibers. Submitted for publication

Regenerate

Regenerate natural systems

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Ecosystems evolved with diversity in plant and animal species. These species interact and provide stability within an ecosystem. Animals are of course, part of this biodiversity and for grassland systems to function naturally, grazing animals play a key role. This is where wool growing can play a role in regenerating grassland ecosystems.

Sheep are grazing animals that fit into a regenerative agriculture system to build soil organic matter, sequester carbon and support biodiversity. Sheep act as natural fertilizers and return essential nutrients to the soil. Learn more about regenerative agriculture here.

Sheep live on grasslands which are regions that are not used for growing food, and many Australian woolgrowers encourage biodiversity through riparian protection and revegetation.

Repair & Recycle

Repair & recycle

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Wool’s attributes are so highly valued that, even after a garment has finished its long service life with one person, the fibre is still suitable to be kept in use in the via three further ways:

  • 1st life extension – Reuse: Wool is the most reused fibre on the planet of the major apparel fibres, with wool garments often preferentially donated or sold for extended life. According to a Nielsen wardrobe study, 50% of wool and wool blend garments are donated to charity, family, friends or sold.
  • 2nd life extension – ‘Closed loop’ recycling: This involves high-value wool garments deconstructed to enable new yarns to be spun and new high-value garments fabricated. Wool is the most recyclable fibre on the planet of the major apparel fibres.
  • 3rd life extension – ‘Open loop’ recycling: This is essentially ‘down cycling’, in which wool products are pulled apart and fabricated into cheaper non-woven products for insulation, padding, interiors etc.
Reconnect

Celebrate diversity

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The wool supply chain is long, complex and diverse. The industry supports the livelihoods of approximately 200,000 people in Australia. These farmers are mostly generational small farmers whose main income is their wool clip.

Throughout the supply chain, wool supports the livelihoods of many individuals and communities throughout Asia and Europe and supports the continuation of cultural expertise and traditional knowledge in weaving, knitting, dyeing and garment making.

100% Natural, renewable and biodegradable
100% Natural, renewable and biodegradable

No other fibre, natural or man-made, can match all of wool’s naturally inherent benefits.

Reduce waste and pollution
Reduce waste and pollution

Wool uses 18% less energy than polyester and nearly 70% less water than cotton to produce 100 sweaters.

The most reused and recycled fibre in the world
The most reused and recycled fibre in the world

Natural, renewable and biodegradable, wool is the most reused and recyclable fibre on the planet of the major apparel fibres.

Sustainability toolkit

Sustainability toolkit

Gain essential wool knowledge, from the properties of the fibre to the social, animal and environmental impacts of wool, tailored for designers and brands.

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Reduce environmental impacts toolkit

Reduce environmental impacts toolkit

Drawing on circular design principles and the natural eco-credentials of wool, this toolkit provides step-by-step and science-backed solutions to reduce the environmental impact of wool garments.

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Circular Design and Wool Toolkit

Circular Design and Wool Toolkit

Learn how wool fits into a circular economy and how you can design a circular product using nature’s original eco and performance fibre.

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Legislative frameworks in the EU to accelerate circularity


The European Union has a goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Textiles has been identified as a priority sector to achieve this with new policy and legislative frameworks focused on circularity.

Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP)
Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP)

The CEAP is a set of commitments aimed at ensuring that circularity and resources efficiency acts as a "prerequisite for climate neutrality", in line with the European Green Deal. Under the CEAP, the textile industry has been identified as a priority sector for the EU’s move towards sustainability and climate neutrality due to its high use of resources and high impact on the environment. Read more here.

EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles
EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles

Under the CEAP, this strategy aims to develop eco-design requirements to ensure that textile products are fit for circularity, ensuring the uptake of secondary raw materials, tackling the presence of hazardous chemicals and empowering businesses and consumers to choose sustainable textiles and ensuring easy access to reuse, repair and recycling. Read more here.

EU Sustainable Product Policy initiative
EU Sustainable Product Policy initiative

The Sustainable Product Policy Legislative initiative was presented in 2021 and will work to make products fit for a climate neutral, resource efficient and circular economy. The new initiative aims at making products more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable, and energy-efficient. Read more here.

Wool’s natural circular attributes, innovations in manufacturing and established recycling industry enables designers and brands to meet these new legislative and policy initiatives with wool.

<p>Inherently circular</p>

Inherently circular

Wool has been deemed circular since 1813, when Benjamin Law famously developed a process using recycled woollen rag combined with virgin wool to make a material called shoddy.

Sustainability

Wool is a low-impact fibre

What are the most sustainable fabrics? Wool is a sustainable fibre. It is natural, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable.
Sustainability

How wool aligns to the UN SDGs

The wool fibre and Australian wool industry is aligned to 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
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Wool farming and sustainable fashion

Wool is considered an environmentally and socially responsible fibre for numerous reasons. Here are some of the ways in which the production of wool aligns to sustainable development and circularity systems to actively regenerate the environment.
Sustainability

Wool does not cause microplastics

Wool fibres are 100% biodegradable in marine and terrestrial environments according to scientific studies, meaning wool does not add to microplastic pollution or damage ocean health.
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