Adventures in wool recycling

November 02, 2018

While at the Textile Exchange Conference in Milan, our fearless co-founder Nicole got an amazing chance to tour a local wool recycler. Since we all couldn't go to Milan with Nicole, we asked her to bring her warm and fuzzy experience to us.  

Tell us about one of the highlights of your week in Milan?

I had such a fantastic time in Milan, and one of the highlights of the week was my trip to a local wool recycler in Prato. Prato is globally famous for the quality of the recycled wool yarns they are able to produce. They have been doing this process for over a hundred years, so the knowledge of the process and also how to blend colors is a special skill. I was amazed by the ability of the staff at the recycling facility to be able to tell what clothes are made from wool, just by the touch of the product.  They create recycled wool colors by blending colors of clothing together; they do not dye the recycled items, but rather use the dye already in the fiber to create the new yarn color. While this history and experience may not be something we could easily adopt, it was a great reminder to use features that our materials already have before adding new chemicals and processes into production.

What was your big take away?
It was so exciting to be able to see the future of a completely circular supply chain, and I can’t wait to work on incorporating the ideas into our process at The Renewal Workshop. For our brand partners who make wool products, we can connect with a wool recycler and send that recycler the wool clothing and be able to trace it. This will allow our partners to tell an amazing story and create an incredibly positive impact on the environment.

Best part?
The tour was really special because I was traveling with heroes of mine in sustainability and fabrics that have been in the industry for a long time and for many of them it was their first time seeing a wool recycling facility. I think anyone interested in recycling and yarns and fabrics would love seeing the operations.

Regrets?
My only regret was missing out on meeting some local sheep. I was hoping to get their perspective on the wool recycling operation, but there were none to be found. Maybe they were off enjoying a vacation from shearing made possible by the excellent work at the recycler. Who knows? Luckily, I was able to enjoy the abundant and delicious biscotti that the region is known for, so the day was still a major success, overall.  


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