Friday, 27 September 2013

Making The Case for Biowool

Wool. There's not that much too it, really. Grows on sheep. You can make jumpers out of it. Nothing to get excited about, you'd think.
Of course, that's bunkum. Wool is amazing stuff. It's a sustainable resource with all sorts of uses. Woollen clothing can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and can be woven into just about anything you'd care to imagine. Fine tailoring, fancy lingerie, suitcases...
That's not a mis-spelling. Industrial designer Daniel McLaughlin picked up an award from the James Dyson Foundation earlier this month for his innovative work on bio-wool. This is a new material, a combination of wool from old carpets and a resin sourced from rapeseed oil that forms a tough and biodegradable polymer. He's highlighted bio-wool in the Terracase, a hard-shell piece of luggage designed for business travellers. Light, durable and good-looking, bio-wool has many benefits. By using waste wool, it's adding another revenue stream to the accounts of wool farmers, who are often hard pressed to make ends meet.
At the Royal College of Art show where McLaughlin, a graduate in industrial design, showed off the Terracase, he explained how he had explored the properties of waste wool and bio-resin, and come up with a product that had a ton of potential. Using sustainable resources, keeping waste products out of the compost chain and helping a cash-strapped industry that's close to his heart (McLaughlin's family are wool farmers), he's might have just ushered in a new age of innovation in textiles. There are hundreds of potential applications for biowool. Steve Parsons of Wool of New Zealand, who has offered to assist Daniel in his work, says:
"By moving into new product categories where there are no preconcieved ideas about how wool is used and what its value might be, we can start imagining the customer experience and design far more exciting products."
Too right. We're deeply reliant on oil-based plastics, and any innovation that helps to move us away from that toxic spiral has to be celebrated. There are benefits to biowool far above and beyond the creation of a smart new line in wheely cases. Let's not be sheepish here, there's no baa-rrier to how far this could go.


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