The global demand for new textile fibers is estimated to increase by 150 percent until 2050. A huge environmental challenge since most fibers today consist of virgin and fossil-based synthetic fibers, and water intense cotton. The fashion industry is therefore searching for regionally supplied, biobased and recyclable raw materials which enable circular products, away from fast fashion.
Wool represents one of such promising future material. 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, fashion and outdoor brands in Sweden 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.
“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 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
Axfoundation is running the Swedish Wool Initiative, a cross-sector collaboration with the purpose to enable Swedish fashion and outdoor brands and their suppliers 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 focusing on building system capacity for collection, sorting, and quality assurance of Swedish wool, to be used by brands in fashion and outdoor.
“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.
Axfoundation is the project lead of the Swedish Wool Initiative. Within the initiative, Axfoundation collaborates with, among others Filippa K, Fjällräven, Röjk, Tiger of Sweden, Svenska Fåravelsförbundet , Smart Textiles , Linn Lindfred (consultant circular economy). More project partners are joining along the way.