Going, going, gone – how wool biodegrades

We continue our series of blog posts about sustainability with the topic of biodegradation, which is the last stage of the wool life cycle. In this blog post, we look at how wool is biodegradable and why it is important for our planet.

Landfills are full

In today’s world, we seem to be suffocating in waste. In many countries, landfills have reached their capacity leading to waste being shipped off to other countries, a practice that is not solving the problem at all. In addition, recycling systems are not yet established to the capacity needed. Last but not least there is also a waste leakage issue, meaning waste leaks into our beautiful landscapes, rivers and oceans endangering animals and the health of our soil.

Nature does not have a waste issue

On the contrary, when we look at nature, all biological, natural products are recycled through biodegradation. Biodegradation is the process of micro-organisms breaking down natural products made up of carbon, oxygen and other molecules. This process occurs in soil as well as in water.

Wool is biodegradable

Wool is a natural fibre and therefore can also biodegrade. Wool is made of the natural protein called keratin. Keratin is a member of a group of structural proteins that form the basis for hair, fur, feathers, scales and claws of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. In other words, sheep wool and human hair are both made up of the same protein Keratin. Like everything nature develops, Keratin readily biodegrades.

Wool biodegrades in 6 months

The ideal conditions for wool to biodegrade is in warm, damp soil conditions combined with access to oxygen. The biodegradation process starts with naturally occurring fungi that start weakening the wool fibre. Afterward, bacteria eat up the fibre. Tests show, given the right conditions, wool can biodegrade in around 6 months. Currently, there is research underway, which examines how wool biodegrades in water. Early results show that within 90 days in seawater, various types of wool have biodegraded by 20%.

However, there is no need to worry that your wool garment will biodegrade in your closet. Keeping your wool garments in your closet or wearing it will not start any biodegrading process. Wool is extremely durable when kept in normal conditions. Archeologists even found several thousands of years old wool samples.

How do wool blends biodegrade?

You may have noticed, that some of the Core Merino product range uses a blend of wool and nylon. Nylon is a synthetic fibre made of crude oil which does not biodegrade. For these garments, biodegradation is not an option as the wool would biodegrade but the nylon would just break down into smaller pieces over a longer period of time. Therefore our NuYarn Core Merino range would be best for recycling. Our 100% merino wool garments could biodegrade, however, giving the garment a second life through recycling would also be the better option as it helps save resources. In the meantime, we are looking into new blends with other natural fibres so that we can create an even more sustainable product for you and our planet.

4 replies
  1. Susan Bezuidenhout
    Susan Bezuidenhout says:

    We have walked the Portugese Camino in Merino shirts. Incredible clothing, even after 5 days, no smell. Hand wash in evening, quickly dry. Incredible!

    Reply

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  1. […] only break down into small microfibres polluting our soil and water (read more about biodegradation here). However, the largest amount of carbon emissions is generated by energy production and consumption […]

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