The Recycling of Wool
Recycling wool is a process that drives sustainability in the textile industry and manages to address certain visible challenges in the sector.
Many people think that the use of recyclable materials in clothing limits the quality of garments, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Recycled wool comes from garments made from wool that have reached the end of their useful life. So, as part of a cycle, these used elements return to the production process.
After a complex process that we will tell you about later in this post, the wool fibres return to their original state and this is what allows the material to be used to create new pieces.
According to the Statista portal, at least 14% of the textile sector's production is consolidated using recycled wool. Efforts have been made in recent years to increase this figure.
HISTORY OF WOOL RECYCLING
It may surprise you to learn that the production of recycled wool has been in operation for several decades, and has evolved as new technologies have emerged.
The textile industry quickly became successful, but it wasn't long before companies noticed the high maintenance and production costs of bringing new garments to market.
Companies needed to devise strategies to reduce production costs. From this need came the initiative to use recycled raw materials, which was the basic impulse in the process of recycling wool.
In the year 1813, an industry professional named Benjamin Law decided to use textile material from wool and virgin wool, leading to the creation of a material known as Shoddy and Mungo. This sustainable revolution took place in Batley, Yorkshire.
The Shoddy and Mungo industries were pioneers in the textile recycling initiative, enabling the restoration of quality wool fibres.
But over the years companies in other parts of Europe, such as Italy, moved into their own processes of restoring recycled material. This allowed a real revolution towards sustainability to begin.
The story of textile recycling is a fascinating one, and although initially the main motivation was to increase profit margins, today it offers very significant ecological advantages.
WOOL RECYCLING PROCESS TODAY
Recycling wool involves an arduous process that begins with the storage of textile remnants that will no longer be used as garments because they have exhausted their useful life.
The garments for recycling are first sorted according to colour, and then non-wool elements such as zips, labels or linings are removed from the garments. In this way, only the textile content is retained and the quality of the material is preserved.
The next step is to carbonise the selected materials, this process allows the cellulose to be removed so as not to affect the excellence of the recycled wool. After the leftover fabric has been hand-sifted, it is placed in a machine that washes and shreds it.
Once the shredded and completely dry wool is obtained, thread counting begins. In this way, what was initially an old garment becomes very strong wool fibre ready to be transformed into a new fabric.
While it is true that technology has evolved, introducing true wonders into the sector to optimise the process, some aspects are still handled by hand. For example, the division of materials by type, colour and fibre quality.
In fact, one of the main attributes of wool recycling is that there is no dyeing process. Instead, the selection of garments for recycling by colour allows the development of fibres of precise shades.
ECONOMIC AND ECOLOGICAL IMPACT
Can these ecological practices in textiles reduce production costs? Absolutely! In this way, companies manage to take care of their assets and promote social awareness on an ecological level.
Reducing the environmental impact of wool is still an advanced initiative today. This process, which allows regenerated yarns to be obtained without neglecting quality criteria, contributes a lot to the environment.
Recycling wool does not involve the process of dyeing the material, which helps to save water. But that's not all, it also reduces the use of chemicals that leave toxic residues in the environment.
On the other hand, obtaining recycled wool is more respectful and attentive to animal welfare. It is not necessary to use hundreds of kilometres of land to raise wool-producing sheep, but the material is reused.
Above all, by using wool garments that will no longer be used, the percentage of textile waste in landfills is reduced. This process proves that they are useful elements within the industry.
WOOL IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL FIBRE RECYCLING
Sustainable fashion is currently a very important topic, but there is still a long way to go to raise the statistics on the production of textile materials from recycling.
So the struggle between wool versus synthetic fibres continues. Although there has been a greater awareness on an environmental level. Synthetic material involves highly polluting processes.
However, the production of sustainable fashion has certain challenges, such as the high energy consumption of some processes. For example, the transformation of PET bottles into textile material such as polyester requires the use of machines with high electricity consumption.
For this reason, the use of natural materials is being targeted. SISA is one of the most impressive brands in terms of wool development and its position in global fibre recycling. Its garments come with a "Global Recycling Standard" certification.
This accredits that the production process actually achieves a reduction in environmental impact. The company has met challenges through the use of technology, including photovoltaic plants to harness renewable energy.
IN CONCLUSION, WHY TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ECO-WOOL?
While it is exciting to see that the process of recycling wool is becoming more accepted and that even consumer interest is becoming more environmentally aware, there is still a long way to go.
Recycling in the textile industry is still dominated by the processing of materials such as plastic. However, both recycled wool and other textile materials are becoming more involved in sustainable fashion.
Recycled nylon increased to 12.01% vs. 4.5% of production in 2022. While recycled wool in countries such as Europe continues to be widely demanded.