Wool is a natural and renewable resource. Sheep wool is obtained by shearing sheep. So we can assume that as long as there is grass on our land, which provides food for the sheep, we will be able to enjoy the products that are made from their wool.
Why is wool not an environmental hazard?
We like changes in our lives, even if they concern new clothes or room arrangement. However, when we get rid of old clothes or furniture, we may not realize to what extent we are harming the environment.
When we dispose of woollen clothes, they can naturally decompose in the ground within a few months or years, slowly releasing valuable nutrients back into the ground. Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, decompose even several hundred years.
How does wool biodegrade?
All natural animal and plant materials are biodegradable, which means that they are capable of decaying under the influence of living organisms such as fungi and bacteria.
Wool is ecological and consists of natural keratin protein, which decomposes to CO2 (carbon dioxide) and nitrogen in the natural environment.
When keratin is naturally decomposed by microorganisms, the products resulting from the decomposition process do not pose any risk to the environment.
Wool is easily biodegradable in warm and humid conditions
he easiest way to dispose of a wool product is to bury it in the ground. When the wool is kept warm and moist, fungi and bacteria start to develop, which produce enzymes that digest the wool.
It is worth noting, however, that in normal conditions, thanks to the unique properties of keratin and durable, waterproof outer membrane of wool, clean and dry fibres retain their elasticity for a longer period of time – they are more durable than other synthetic fibres.
According to the International Wool Textile Organisation, studies have shown that wool products will degrade almost completely after six months when they are in the ground.
In addition, wool is biodegradable in an aqueous environment. Recent research in New Zealand has shown that different types of wool have already biodegraded by 20% in the first 90 days.
In addition, wool can act as an effective soil conditioner, a biocatalyst for soil processes and a bio-stimulator for plant growth, releasing sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium during biodegradation. This is why wool waste is commonly used as a natural fertilizer in organic crops.
Wool is biodegradable in the marine environment
It was found that both untreated and machine-washable (treated to some extent) wool is fully biodegradable in the marine environment. This means that by throwing away clothes from the wool that we no longer wear, we do not contribute to micro-plastic contamination.