In 2018, this country generated 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (otherwise known as trash), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Out of that total, almost 17 million tons, or 5.8 percent, was textile waste. And out of that, about 13 million tons was clothing and footwear – the majority of which ended up in landfills.
But here’s the good news: you’d be hard pressed to find any merino wool among all those discarded
t-shirts and socks and the like because merino is fully biodegradable. Yup. It almost completely disappears within a matter of months when composted. Like other natural proteins and cellulosic materials like hair, cotton and flax, wool readily biodegrades when buried in soil.
In contrast, synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon and polypropylene just don’t decay.
While merino wool is a super durable fabric that will remain in great shape for years when stored in normal conditions – i.e. your closet – it’s also easy to dispose of in an eco-friendly way when the time comes. (So sad. We know.)
The getting-rid-of-it part doesn’t take long, either. Wool will biodegrade in as little as three months or up to about nine to 12 months, depending on the soil, climate, weight of the wool and other characteristics. Once wool is buried in warm, damp soil – the ideal conditions for biodegradation – naturally developing fungi start to weaken the fiber. After that, bacteria eat it right up. This video shows how thoroughly dramatic the disappearance really is. This phenomenal feature is also what allows us to maintain a closed-loop production cycle, creating just about as little waste as possible when making our iksplor gear.
But what makes wool’s ability to biodegrade so special is not simply because it doesn’t create more polluting waste. It’s also because as a 100 percent natural fiber, once microorganisms break it down during biodegradation, it poses no threat to the environment. In fact, quite the opposite happens. Wool buried in the soil becomes a kind of fertilizer, releasing essential elements and nutrients like nitrogen, sulphur and magnesium into the earth. All of these then help other organisms such as plants, herbs and vegetables to grow.
And even that’s not all! Adding wool to the soil also enhances its water holding capacity, improves how much water from the ground surface enters the soil, helps with soil aeration (the exchange of gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide between the soil and atmosphere) and reduces erosion. So, it turns out, disposing of your merino is actually incredibly regenerative.
Now, how’s that for impressive? We mean…Mother Nature…she sure is one smart lady. Dang.