Research Week – Wool recycling

Visiting wool recyclers in Northern Italy

Prato has been a centre for all types of recycled wool, from both pre- and post-consumer sources, since the Middle Ages. There is no better place to get effective and meaningful insight into the ins and outs of the wool recycling processes, and the technology and value chain.

When it comes to sustainability, wool is a material that more players in the outdoor industry are looking into, not just for its fibre qualities, but also as one way to improve their environmental and materials footprint. With the increasing interest in wool, another question comes up: is recycled wool as an ingredient in our apparel products a viable option, also in sustainability terms?

It’s always good to go and see the facilities personally to understand the processes, the challenges and the opportunities. On Day One, we visited the Materia Museo and the factory Gruppo Colle, one of the biggest dye house in Prato district,very experienced in processing recycled wool.

We were in the good hands of Progetto Lana, agent and merchant for recycled and virgin wool qualities.

Insights from a one week research trip

What we found was a rarely talked about, but nonetheless sizeable ‘niche’ of the textile industry which has developed highly elaborate and specialised skills, processes, machinery and – last but not least – products. Indeed, until not too long ago, these products were undervalued for the sustainability potential they offer.

Post consumer textiles are delivered to Prato from all over the world to be recycled into fibres for wovens and knits. These processes for recycling knits and wovens from post consumer and also post-industrial content from the area exits for 200 years in this region.

Many colourful fibres are mixed from the original colours of the recycled materials, but often other fibres are added into the mix to obtain a certain result of colour and/or durability.

There is a separate process to recycle Cashmere.

Overall, with what we have learned, we truly believe that there is great potential in what we have seen in Prato, and we are looking forward to outdoor brands, particularly in Europe, actively making use of this unique opportunity available so close to home.

If you are interested in our next learning trip, let us know and we will keep you updated.

Fotos ©Anna Rodewald/GreenroomVoice #europeanoutdoorgroup #textileexchange #italy #wool #recycling