Merino wool, long known to be an outstanding material to wear as a base-layer to keep warm things warm and cool things cool while whicking away moisture at the same time, now has an added extra benefit to the material’s natural chemistry. Researchers in New Zealand found that it takes nine months for the material to biodegrade, making it extremely environmentally friendly. Who says you can’t use the merino in a compost heap now?

Original press release issued by The New Zealand Merino Company on March 5th, 2012:

Researchers have found that nine months is all it takes for merino garments to biodegrade. The discovery gives consumers another reason to buy garments made from merino and adds to the environmental advantages, comfort and performance benefits of the fiber, all of which have led to the popularity of brands such as Icebreaker.

Discerning customers increasingly insist on information about the environmental impacts of products. This consumer demand prompted The New Zealand Merino Company to commission trials comparing the bio-degradation behavior of merino and synthetic fabrics. Whole garments and fabric samples, including an Icebreaker merino base layer, were buried in soil and excavated at various intervals to assess the rate of bio-degradation. The results came out strongly in favor of merino fabrics, which lost around 36% of their mass after only two months burial in soil and up to 99% after nine months. In comparison, the polyester knit fabrics did not degrade at all during the course of the nine-month trial period.

Maree Hamilton, a textile specialist from The New Zealand Merino Company, said, “There is a growing global trend toward eco-friendly apparel and textile products. In today’s ‘throw-away’ society the ability of a product to be composted, and to meet the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ philosophy, provides retailers with an important point of difference and is seen as a definite advantage in the market.”

“The active outdoors market is a key segment for us and these consumers make considered choices regarding the impact of their lifestyle on the environment,” Hamilton explained. “These are people who live, work and play in the outdoors and already appreciate the comfort and performance benefits of merino garments. These new findings further validate their choice and demonstrate a huge advantage of merino over synthetics, which will not biodegrade at all.”

The research was carried out by The New Zealand Merino Company with financial assistance from the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (Inc).


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