At the same time, when it comes to sustainability, wool is also a material that more players in our industry are looking into, not just for its fibre qualities, but also as one way to improve their environmental and materials footprint.
As part of wider work being done in this area, the EOG was part of the international working group that supported Textile Exchange in developing the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), which focused on the traceability of new wool. This standard was launched in July 2017 at OutDoor (Europe) and Outdoor Retailer (USA). With this increasing interest in wool from our industry, another question comes up that has previously been asked of – and then answered - for materials such as cotton, polyester, nylon and even down: is recycled wool as an ingredient in our apparel products a viable option?
At the EOG, we realised that we had few, if any, answers to the many questions that are related to the use of recycled wool. These include:
- What are the exact processes involved in the recycling of wool?
- What are the challenges and advantages relative to virgin wool?
- What are the quality and processing constraints for products, and what does that mean for performance apparel products such as those in sports/outdoor?
- What are the quantities available?
- What factual knowledge exists about the (potentially, hopefully lower) environmental impact of recycled wool?
- What about the traceability of the materials? What are the challenges today? Where could this go in the future?
It is for this purpose, that the EOG, in collaboration with Greenroom Voice, organised a week-long trip to Prato, near Florence. Prato has been a centre for all types of recycled wool, from both pre- and post-consumer sources, since the Middle Ages. There is no better place to get effective and meaningful insight into the ins and outs of the wool recycling processes, and the technology and value chain.
What we found was a rarely talked about, but nonetheless sizeable ‘niche’ of the textile industry which has developed highly elaborate and specialised skills, processes, machinery and - last but not least - products. Indeed, until not too long ago, these products were undervalued for the sustainability potential they offer.
The insights from the research will be documented in the next few weeks and months and made available to the EOG membership on the one hand, and via Greenroom Voice, also to the public at large.
We are continuing to collaborate with our partners The Sustainable Angle and Textile Exchange, to ensure that these insights are also circulated into their respective networks. Overall, with what we have learned, we truly believe that there is great potential in what we have seen in Prato, and we are looking forward to outdoor brands, particularly in Europe, actively making use of this unique opportunity available so close to home.
- The EOG and Greenroom Voice would like to thank the International Wool Textile Organisation and many individuals in the Prato area for their time and support to make this research week a success
- The images contained in this article were all taken by Anna Rodewald of Geenroom Voice.