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A new use for waste wool

Swatches | October 1, 2022 | By:

Woola’s Bubble Wool performs like plastic wraps, and is biodegradable.

Woola, a startup based in Estonia, has found a way to use waste wool to replace the plastic used in packaging. In a previous incarnation as an e-commerce business, the company relied on plastic packaging made of fossil fuels. But ecologists say plastic is not good for the planet. Bubble wrap, for example, made from polyethylene, can take more than 500 years to decompose in landfills. Woola takes material that would otherwise get thrown away—waste wool—and turns it into a sustainable alternative for packing fragile items safely.

About 90% of European sheep wool goes to waste, or about 200,000 tons per year.

Waste wool is too coarse to produce yarn for the textile industry so, because it is unusable, farmers often burn or compost it. Woola says 90% of European sheep wool goes to waste, or about 200,000 tons per year. Wool is a naturally high-tech fiber, and its elasticity, water repellency, and resistance to temperature extremes make it a perfect material for packing items that need extra cushioning.

The company turns that waste into its premier product, Bubble wool, which protects goods from breaking and getting scratched as effectively as bubble wrap. Other products include wool-lined mailing envelopes and glass bottle protector sleeves.

Wool bottle sleeves protect glass items from breaking during transport. Photos: Woola

Woola sourced its first batches of waste wool in 2021 from partners in the United Kingdom, a country with long-standing sheep farming traditions and the most sheep in Europe. It came washed, processed and ready to be turned into products. But beginning this year, to be as close to the source as possible and fully control the process, Woola will use locally sourced Estonian wool.

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