Journal

Materials: What is recycled wool?

How is recycled wool made? 

With more than 100 years of experience regenerating wool, our provider for recycled wool has specialized in the production of this material in the renowned district of Prato, Italy for three generations.

The textile industry in Prato, in the Tuscany region, has thrived since the 12th century. In this province, there are about 3,500 manufacturers employing 40,000 workers who process discarded textiles, especially wool, according to National Geographic.

Garments that have reached the end of their life as well as rags are sorted by hand into fine gradations of color and return to production as raw material. The first recycling plant is where the unlining, the selection, and the classification happen. By a complete manual operation, all linings, zippers, labels, and any other element that could pollute the quality of the material in the later stages, are removed.

The people who work at these manufacturers are specialized sorters who carry out a traditional trade in the textile industry: the separation of materials by type, color, and fiber quality. 

After this selection, rags are carbonized to eliminate all cellulosic parts, mainly cotton and viscose. Even small stitches of cotton could pollute the quality of the recycled wool. After the carbonization process, rags are manually checked again in order to remove any inadequate residues left.

Then, the materials go through a washer-shredding machine, that does both processes at the same time. The water used at this stage goes to a recycling channel to be reused later.

Shredded wool is then dried, and fibers are ready to become a new material. 

 

The choice of colors and determination of relative percentages in the composition of the wools is entrusted to an expert called feltrinista, who prepares the feltrino—the wadding with various types of fibers—to achieve the final color requested. After that, twisting and yarn count are established and fibers are ready to be spun to become yarns. 

As we know, mechanical wool, yarns and fabrics come from regenerated raw materials and used clothing that are selected by color. This means the materials are not dyed at any stage. All of this production takes place in carbonizing and washer-shredding plants, drawing on the supply chain of Prato's textile district. 

The biological treatment of water allows waste water to be reused. A photovoltaic system has been set up to minimize carbon dioxide emissions. 

In the linear production system currently favored by the fashion industry, only one percent of the world's textile waste is currently recycled into new clothing, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Regenerating textile waste helps prevent these materials from being discarded in landfills. 

The recycled wools we use at SISA are certified by the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), an international voluntary standard for tracking and verifying the content of recycled materials in a final product. The standard applies to the full supply chain and addresses traceability, environmental principles, social requirements, chemical content and labeling. 

See our current pieces made in recycled wools, here.