Australian wool producers are some of the finest in the world in sustainability and innovation. Being known for its softness, durability and quality, Australian-produced wool is a choice for many in Australia and worldwide. Australia produces 39% of the global wool and exports about 259 million kilograms of raw wool overseas, contributing 3.5 billion AUD to Australia’s economy. Typically, manufacturers use wool to produce textiles and apparel at retail bringing in 80 billion USD every year. Usually, used garments end up in landfills and go to waste due to their poor quality, non-recyclability and synthetic material. However, wool inherently has sustainable features that make it the most desired material to promote Circularity.
Circular Design in the Textile Industry
For decades, the concept of introducing a circular economy and design in the textile industry has garnered a considerable amount of support in the country. This method of clothing creation uses regenerative materials and raw materials and keeps them in use for as long as possible. They ensure it by creating durable products. They also offer opportunities for reuse, recycling, repair and refurbishment. It includes the designs on the garments which are biodegradable when they eventually reach the end of their use.
How Wool Fits Perfectly into the Circular Design
The wool fibre is inherently suitable for the circular design as it is 100% biodegradable and sourced sustainably. Woollen garments have high durability. Therefore, users can wear them for over 20-30 years. Wool is a strong fibre that allows easy repair during its prime lifetime. It makes it the perfect textile to pass on to generations, resell at high quality, donate or use for several years. Manufacturers can collect and recycle the product when it reaches the end of its life. They can put all the fibres to new uses to produce new textile material. Finally, they can return it to the earth and fertilise it. Woollen fibres break down in soil and water into rich nutrients that enhance the soil quality. They make excellent additions to new lands for grazing or planting crops. These inherent sustainable features make wool the ultimate circular raw material.
Conventional and Unconventional Uses of Wool Promoting Circularity
Clothing and Textiles
Wool is the core material in thermal wear, including socks, jumpers, sweaters and suits. People generally equate wool with winter. However, the lightweight material is comfortable and practical during Australian summers too. It evaporates and absorbs moisture keeping a person calm and dry throughout the season. Wool wear actively adjusts to the body’s thermal temperature and improves a person’s perspiration comfort. Circular woollen knits in activewear enhance its moisture-wicking property.
Wool has one of the highest flame-retardancy of up to 600 °C. Wool doesn’t shrink, melt, exude toxic odour or stick to the skin at high temperatures. These features make wool the most preferred material for creating firefighter uniforms as they meet the fire safety standards without chemical treatment.
Soft Furnishings and Carpets
Wool is one of the best options for producing high-quality carpets. These carpets generally have padding underneath as they do not waste substandard wool or yarn ends. Instead, they use them to produce cushioning. One of the most common uses of wool is household upholstery, including covers and stuffing. People purchase lampshades, curtains, wallpapers, felt pads and cushions made of wool. Woollen bedsheets, doonas and blankets are most commonly found in Australian homes.
Wool is a biodegradable and absorbent material that makes an excellent mulch pad. Certain institutes are currently researching ways to process wool into a fertiliser.