Wool is a naturally durable fibre and garments can stay in circulation for a relatively long period of time, reducing their environmental footprint. Research has established that woollen products have the potential for several ‘lives’ over 20-30 years.
Wool has been widely recycled for hundreds of years, in various forms:
- The closed loop system, a mechanical process that returns garments to the raw fibre state and makes it into yarn again, to produce new products (particularly suitable for wool knitwear).
- The open loop system, through which the recycled wool becomes the basis for industrial products such as insulation or mattress padding.
- Re-engineering, whereby companies recycle old or unsold items into new products, such as creating a bag using an old woollen jacket, or taking production waste such as trimmings to make other items.
Discarded clothing ending up in landfill sites is becoming a major global problem and here, wool is also playing a positive role. Choosing long-lasting, readily recyclable woollen garments over other options can reduce the quantity of textiles that ends up in landfill.
Wool is one of the world’s most suitable fibres for reuse, extending the lifetime of garments and helping the environment (and bank balances). There are numerous ways to reuse, from charity shops to clothes swap schemes, and there is increasing global demand for vintage woollen garments.