Sustainability

Compostable alternative to plastic packaging uses wool as insulation

Compostable alternative to plastic packaging uses wool as insulation
With public and political opinion against plastic packaging at an all-time high, the market for renewable and recyclable alternatives is wide open, and one company is creating sustainable, temperature-controlled packaging from wool.

Woolcool, set up in 2009, is a packaging innovation for the transport of temperature-sensitive items from the food and pharmaceutical sectors, using wool in place of polystyrene, bubble wrap, gel packs or other non-recyclable insulating materials.

The packaging is made of 100 per cent felted sheep’s wool, a by-product from the necessary shearing process, which is then washed, scoured and sealed within a perforated polyethylene wrap. The wool is renewable and biodegradable, releasing nitrates back into the soil when composted, and can also be reused in a variety of ways including for home insulation, car lining or pet bedding.

Josie Morris, Woolcool Managing Director, explained: “Proven to keep deliveries of chilled, ambient or frozen food products at the correct and safe temperature for at least 24 hours and in many cases, much longer, Woolcool has also been independently verified to maintain temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, such as life-saving vaccines, within critical distribution temperature ranges for over 120 hours.”

With 42 businesses so far having signed up to a new UK Plastics Pact, promising to eliminate ‘problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging’ by 2025, solutions such as Woolcool’s offer an alternative that a number of high profile companies across Europe have already taken advantage of, including Unilever, Fortnum & Mason, John Lewis and the NHS-approved online medicine supplier Pharmacy2U. Woolcool has experienced rapid growth in the past five years, supported by more than £1 million of investment from the UK Government through the national innovation agency Innovate UK.

Compostable alternative to plastic packaging uses wool as insulation
The Woolcool food packaging range

“We’ve invested heavily in R&D and worked with a number of UK universities to analyse how wool works at a microscopic level,” Morris continued. “Rigorous testing to international industry standards in our own environmental chambers, supported by independent trials, consistently proves that wool fibres are effective at absorbing moisture from the air, which minimises humidity and condensation to maintain stable temperatures,”

The company claims that in one year it has prevented the equivalent of 75 Olympic swimming pools full of polystyrene going to landfill through companies switching to its wool packaging, an achievement that has been recognised by a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. The Queen’s Awards are an annual award for outstanding achievement by UK business in the four categories of innovation, international trade, sustainable development and promoting opportunity through social mobility.

“We are delighted and proud to have achieved the Queen’s Award,” commented Woolcool founder and CEO Angela Morris, adding: “On a wider platform this award will reinforce the vital role that natural materials can play in meeting the environmental challenges that face the planet, both now and in the future.”

More information about Woolcool can be found on the company’s website.

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