The Swedish Wool Initiative

In 2019, Sweden imported 1,650 tonnes of wool. At the same time, only 37% of all the wool produced by Swedish farmers was utilized. A huge waste of resources which could provide the Swedish industry with a regionally supplied, biobased and recyclable material, enabling the transition to a sustainable and circular industry. Axfoundation is running the Swedish Wool Initiative since 2020 with the goal to enable Swedish brands within fashion, outdoor and home textiles to easily access qualitative and competitive Swedish wool. The cross-sectoral collaboration aims at contributing to the vision of zero waste of Swedish wool.

The Issue

The global demand for new textile fibres is estimated to increase by 150 percent by 2050. A huge environmental challenge since most fibres today consist of virgin and fossil-based synthetic fibres and water intense cotton. Swedish brands are therefore searching for regionally supplied, biobased and recyclable raw materials which enable circular products.

Wool represents one of such promising future materials. However today, most Swedish wool is discarded as a byproduct in the meat industry. The reason is a lack of the right market conditions to make Swedish wool available on an industrial scale. Consequently, Swedish brands within fashion, outdoor and home textiles import refined wool from different parts of the world, often with a higher environmental footprint and produced with lower standards for animal welfare compared to Swedish wool.

Lack of the right market conditions is hindering the uptake of Swedish wool.

Lack of the right market conditions is hindering the uptake of Swedish wool.

“By contributing to the right market conditions and innovative product development, there is an opportunity to redirect a linear stream of this discarded resource to become a circular and sustainable material in the world of textiles and fashion.” – Hanna Skoog, Program Director, Circular economy, Axfoundation

Did you know that….

  • In Sweden, approximately 1,200 tonnes of wool are produced annually, of which only 37 percent is utilized. At the same time, Sweden imported about 1,650 tonnes of wool in the form of raw wool, carded wool and yarn (2019).
  • In addition to being bio-based and recyclable, wool is also naturally antibacterial, dirt-repellent and flame-retardant. The unique composition of this raw material means there is no need to add chemicals such as PFAS or biocides to achieve these highly desirable features. This is an enabling factor for circular material flows.

Source: Swedish Sheep Breeding Association, Wargön Innovation

Our Work

Axfoundation is running the Swedish Wool Initiative, a cross-sector collaboration where actors across the value chain collaborate to build system capacity, scale up the use of Swedish wool and contribute to the transition to a sustainable and circular industry for fashion, outdoor and home textiles. Together with the project’s academic partners and expert group solutions are developed based on both research and practical experience.

Our Solution

The Swedish Wool Initiative aims to enable Swedish brands within fashion, outdoor and home textiles to easily access qualitative and competitive Swedish wool as a raw material.

The initiative is a further development of a successful proof-of-concept pilot, run by Filippa K and Röjk together with Smart Textiles, the Swedish Sheep Breeders Association and The Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF), which provided the market with small collections of garments, 100% made from Swedish wool. The Swedish Wool Initiative is taking the results from this proof-of-concept further by running an industrial scale pilot.

Upscaling is made possible through capacity-building in the value chain’s processes, from infrastructure, classification and trading solutions for the Swedish wool to digital traceability, sustainability analysis and the development of a framework for circular design together with commercially scalable and circularly designed products made of Swedish wool.

“Developing viable and sustainable market conditions for Swedish wool is a complex task which requires collaboration, incentives, and practical solutions throughout the whole value chain. The project has identified the prioritized bottlenecks. Now the journey begins to find the right practical solutions and ways forward to address these.” – Hanna Skoog, Program Director Circular Economy, Axfoundation

Hanna Skoog visits Norrby Gård and meets wool classifier Linnea Eklund before embarking on the Swedish Wool Initiative.

Hanna Skoog visits Norrby Gård and meets wool classifier Linnea Eklund before embarking on the Swedish Wool Initiative.

Expected Results

The project is expected to contribute to:

  1. A climate-neutral and circular industry for fashion, outdoor and home textiles through the development of circular products based on the residual flow of Swedish wool.
  2. A resource-efficient and resilient value chain for Swedish wool.
  3. Increased competitiveness for the raw material, and products of, Swedish wool.
  4. A socially sustainable textile industry in transformation into a circular economy, e.g. through increased knowledge of circular design and product development.

Partners

Axfoundation is the project lead of the Swedish Wool Initiative. Within the initiative, Axfoundation collaborates with, among others Filippa KFjällrävenTiger of Sweden, Klippan Yllefabrik, Smart Textiles, IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, Chalmers Industriteknik, Circularista, LE Ullkonsult, Norrby gård, Västkustens Ullinsamling/CC Wool, Ullcentrum, Ullkontoret, Svenska Fårklipparförbundet, LRF and TrusTrace. Animalia and Norilia are part of the project’s group of experts. The project is partly funded by Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova.

Contact

Projects within Circular Economy

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