News

HRH the Prince of Wales champions wool’s natural benefits

16 June 2014

To mark the fifth anniversary of the Campaign for Wool a special event was last week held on the lawns of Clarence House, the residence of campaign patron HRH The Prince of Wales

HRH The Prince of Wales
HRH The Prince of Wales burying a wool sweater and a synthetic counterpart in the lawns of Clarence House to demonstrate wool’s natural properties.

The Campaign for Wool is a global endeavour initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales to raise awareness amongst consumers about the unique benefits of wool, the ultimate natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre. The Woolmark Company is a major supporter of this global campaign.

The event, hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales, was a celebration of wool and all it contributes to the global fashion and interior textile industries, with models showcasing a wide range of wool apparel. Attended by a host of key guests including Marks & Spencer CEO Mark Bolland, Ermenegildo Zegna Chairman Count Paolo Zegna and Loro Piana chairman Pier Luigi Loro Piana, Campaign for Wool chairman Nicholas Coleridge CBE officially opened the celebrations.

The event sought to highlight two of the campaign’s most frequently made claims regarding wool’s benefits: firstly, that it is a safe fibre thanks to its natural fire retardant properties; and secondly, wool quickly biodegrades in soil - a key ecological benefit.

During the reception, HRH The Prince of Wales presented a film screening of a burn test which took place at Clarence House the day before the event. The screening showed an attempt to set alight a wool duvet, jacket and carpet alongside their synthetic counterparts to showcase the natural flame retardant attributes of wool. Whilst the flame burned out on the wool items, the synthetic counterparts suffered extensive damage. Wool’s complex cell structure, high water and nitrogen content and high ignition point makes it a uniquely safe fibre to have in the home.

To showcase wool as a biodegradable fibre, His Royal Highness then turned the first sod in a flower bed at Clarence House, as a wool sweater and a synthetic look-a-like were buried side-by-side in the ground. The two garments will be dug up during the Campaign for Wool’s Wool Week UK celebrations in October this year, with the wool sweater well on its way to decomposing compared with the synthetic alternative which will appear almost unchanged.

"The Campaign For Wool continues to gather momentum with a very compelling demonstration of the benefits of fire resistance and biodegradability at Clarence House,” explains The Woolmark Company Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Rob Langtry.

“Patron HRH The Prince of Wales reinforced his commitment to the campaign and his belief that, for the benefit of future generations, choosing wool is both a safer and more environmentally sound decision. In the presence of global leaders of the fashion apparel and interiors industries His Royal Highness drew attention to the compounding problem of synthetic fibres ending up in landfill. He also drew attention to the fact that in the interest of family safety, choosing wool lowers the everyday toxic risk that flammable synthetics made from petroleum products represent. It was heartening to see such a positive response from the media and industry."

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Editor's Notes :

Fire resistance

Of the commonly used textile fibres including cotton, rayon, polyester, acrylic and nylon, wool is widely recognised as the most flame resistant. Some of wool’s key fire resistant attributes include a very high ignition temperature of around 570-600° C, a high Limiting Oxygen Index (LOI) which is the measure of the amount of oxygen needed to sustain combustion, a low heat of combustion which relates to the measure of the amount of heat energy released in the burning process and the fact that wool does not melt or stick.

Due to its naturally high nitrogen and water content, wool requires higher levels of oxygen in the surrounding environment in order to burn. In addition, wool’s highly cross-linked cell membrane structure will swell when heated to the point of combustion, forming an insulating layer that prevents the spread of flame. It’s these scientific properties in wool, a natural fibre with great technical benefits, that were celebrated at Clarence House.

Biodegradability

Each person produces an average of 500kg of waste each year, 25kg of which are textiles. The recent practice of waste going to landfill is not a sustainable solution, which is where natural fibres such as wool play an important part. For example, garments made out of polyester and nylon take about 40 years to degrade, whereas those made of wool take only one year.

As a biodegradable product, wool can be broken down by a biological process (bacteria and fungi) into natural raw materials. These are carbon dioxide, water and naturally occurring minerals, which are then reintegrated into the nutrient cycle. Conditions needed for products to biodegrade are oxygen, warm temperatures and humidity. Wool is made by nature and thus is naturally biodegradable. It is made of a protein called keratin. During the biodegradation process, fungi first destroy the fibre ends. Bacteria then digest the attacked fibre by secreting enzymes. The carbon-to-nitrogen-ratio of wool is quite narrow, meaning that wool has a high percentage of nitrogen. This is the reason for good biodegradability.