The United States wool industry has a waste problem, and we can find it at the very source of the wool we seek to use.
We find waste wool at shearing time on the farm as fleece is wholly discarded because farmers can not find a market for it.
We find waste at a local wool pool when those farmers are told by graders that they will not take the farmers’ wool because they believe they will not find a market for it. These graders look for “fine” wools generally grown by merino sheep, a grade of wool in high demand by large clothing brands. This perspective of the value of wool illustrates a very narrow view of the possibilities of wool in a strong textile economy.
All grades have value.
You can find wool waste after shearing in what are called “skirtings” or the undesirable sections of wool fleece that are deemed “unusable” because of a too short staple length, contamination by heavy dirt or mud, urine or feces, or perhaps the grader considers the wool too coarse for next-to-skin use.
We also find wool waste at the mill or with the hand-processor in the form of discarded fleece that was contaminated by moths, too full of vegetable matter, or simply felted too much for the mill to process it.
A New Way to Look at Wool Waste: Zero Waste
Obviously, there are a lot of reasons that someone along the wool supply chain would discard a fleece, but it does not need to be thrown away. Curious gardeners in Athens, Ohio have used discarded wool the last two years to mulch their vegetable and flower plants in organic community gardens. Other people use it to provide insulation in their homes, after cleaning it, of course!
California-based Fibershed headquarters has prioritized wool pelletizers as a way to help manage wool waste by turning dirty or unusable wool into a soil amendment. This process is much like pelletizing hops for use in breweries; however, wool pellets are applied to soil, ideally worked into it, to provide nutrients, lighten clay soils, and retain water in drought conditions.
These pellets are manufactured around the world using wool and fiber from a variety of sheep and other wool-bearing species of animals, and we hope to bring this process here to southeast Ohio.
The Southeast Ohio Fibershed hopes to acquire a pelletizer for use with our region’s wool waste to develop and sell a new gardening product line to the community.
Equipment Cost: about $15,000 and it is manufactured in Indiana, USA.
Are you interested in helping us achieve this goal or do you have questions about what we plan to accomplish? Please get in touch to chat or help us to raise the funds necessary to make this project a reality!