Fresh feast grown from wool fibre

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeThe West Australian
The composting wool clothing.
Camera IconThe composting wool clothing. Credit: Houdini

Australian wool advocates have praised a clothing brand that turned old clothes into food, saying it shows the material is one of the most eco-friendly in the world.

Swedish apparel band Houdini Sportswear makes the bulk of its clothes from wool fibres including Australian wool.

The company collects worn-out sportswear at its stores and uses it to make new items.

But a recent project aimed to further highlight wool products’ biodegradability by composting old clothes and using the soil to grow vegetables.

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In what has been hailed a great public relations display, Swedish celebrity chef Sebastion Thureson used the vegetables to cook a gourmet meal for Houdini customers at a pop-up restaurant in Stockholm.

Fibre Advocacy & Eco Credentials program manager Angus Ireland works as Australian Wool Innovation’s lifestyle specialist.

He said the promotion cast a “light on one of wool’s environmental strengths — its biodegradability at the end of its life”.

“This is important because apparel ratings agencies ... don’t consider EOL when rating fibre types,” he said.

“The fact that synthetics like polyester and nylon are incredibly slow to break down and are consequently causing landfills to overflow is not taken into account by ratings agencies.

“Wool is 100 per cent biodegradable at EOL, especially in warm moist circumstances where bacteria and fungi can flourish and do their work.”

It took about six months for the clothes to break down into CO2, H20 and other matter.

Houdini has labelled it “the world’s first vegetarian fine-dining experience grown from old sports-wear”.

The brand’s chief executive Eva Karlsson said the company’s vision was simple.

“We want to maximise every-one’s outdoor experience without having a negative environmental impact on our planet,” she said.

Ordinarily, Houdini customers can return worn out clothes to the brand's store for repair or have it recycled into new clothing.

Mr Ireland said wool decomposes in soil and slowly released nitrogen-based nutrients back into the Earth.

During the biodegradable process, fungi destroy the end of the wool fibre and bacteria then digest the fibre by secreting enzymes.

“As shown by Houdini, biodegraded wool returns to the soil as a fertiliser with all the ingredients needed to grow food,” Mr Ireland said.

“It provides important nutrients, including nitrogen, sulphur and magnesium.”

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