Information for consumers about British Wool Products

Why wool is the best choice for the environment

With concern about the harmful effect of plastic litter on marine species and habitats growing world-wide, how can the use of natural fibres – such as wool – reduce this impact?

The issue of large plastic litter in the seas is well recognised, and awareness of microplastic pollution – tiny pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste - is growing thanks to mainstream programmes such as Planet Earth II, which is regularly viewed by over 10 million people.

A less widely known source of microplastic pollution is the breakdown of synthetic fabrics, which forms tiny plastic fibres. The vast majority of these are produced during domestic clothes washing, where abrasion of clothes removes tiny fibres which are too small to be caught by the washing machine’s filters. These fibres – which may add up to hundreds of thousands - are then carried in waste water into the sewage system, but are far too small to be removed in the treatment plants where other solid materials and pollutants are caught. As a result, the fibres escape into rivers and then oceans where they are consumed by wildlife.

So why is wool a better choice? British Wool’s Head of Marketing, Graham Clark, explains.

“Products made out of synthetic fibres can take 30 – 40 years to degrade, while wool – a natural fibre - degrades in a fraction of that time. This is because wool is made of keratin, a natural protein similar to the protein that makes up human hair, which can be broken down naturally without causing an environmental hazard.

Natural fibres biodegrade naturally in soils and aquatic systems, so they don’t accumulate in landfill and oceans. So whilst wool will still shed fibres during washing, these fibres will break down naturally, without causing any harmful effects to the environment. And wool will also reduce waste to landfill as it decomposes in soil in a matter of months or years, slowly releasing valuable nutrients back into the earth. This presents a really compelling case, particularly when we consider that wool's natural properties support less frequent, lower impact washing, and provide greater durability. Definitely something to think about next time you’re buying a new jumper or pair of socks!”


The Weather Network - How your laundry is filling the ocean with microplastics

International Wool Textile Organisation

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Why wool is the best choice for the environment