The Handbook / Style / A quick guide to recycled wool

A quick guide to recycled wool

Why recycled wool is better than virgin wool

Words— Frank And Oak staff

Hands-down, the best part about the cold weather is the opportunity to start layering — to start wearing thicker, cozier, warmer garments. This past year we made it a priority to use more and more sustainable fabrics and methods with the use of Hydro-less denim and organic cotton. With winter here comes the opportunity to use another fantastic eco-friendly option in recycled wool.

 

And there are a ton of great reasons to use it.

 

 

 

 

The production of traditional "virgin" wool is land and water intensive for the grazing sheep. The subsequent production after shearing requires a lot of energy, water, and chemicals to turn the shorn fleece into the clean dyed fibre you see on the shelves of your favourite stores.

 

Recycled wool, of course, doesn't require any of this! These resources have been used up once, and now a new garment can be produced.

 

Recycled wool, on the other hand, is a relatively low-impact process. Today, aided by modern-day quality controls, the wool goes through a meticulous sorting of materials into colour categories prior to shredding. By selecting and blending colours of dyed wool fabrics and garments, the dying process can be removed completely, saving water and chemicals and eliminating the resulting wastewater. The process also uses significantly less energy than what is necessary to produce new fabrics.

 

 

A rag man or chiffoniers, in turn-of-the-century Paris

 

This is no modern idea, either. The first and primary fabric to be recycled was wool. Beginning around 1815, the demand for wool exceeded supply, prompting its reuse. The strength and quality of wool fibre was such that it was especially well suited to recycling. When the recycling process was established and refined, however, it was extended to every fibre excluding silk.

 

Recycling textiles was probably the most visible in the cities' rag men. Around the world, the rag men collected old fabrics and clothing to sell to manufacturers who broke them down and made them into new fabrics It began in the mid 19th century and the practice increased around WWII in North America and in Europe where rationing was in place. 

 

 

 


Most textiles are entirely recyclable, yet the amount of fabric waste that ends up in landfills is astounding. In 2009, it was estimated that just 1.3 million tons of fabric were recovered for recycling in the United States — a fraction of the 12 million tons of textiles that were thrown away. In 2013, it was reported that 75 percent of the 5.8 million tons of textile waste in Europe was thrown away or incinerated. It was recently reported that Burberry incinerated £28 million pounds of stock in 2017 — something that is commonplace in high fashion circles as it turns out.

 

We can't sit here and contribute to that, so we're increasing our production of recycled wool in every instance we can. Recycled wool is one of the world’s great fabrics — it’s great for the environment, as we’ve mentioned, but it’s also soft, durable, naturally breathable, naturally stain resistant, and easy to care for — just like Virgil wool. So why wouldn't we use it?


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