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IWTO Wool Round Table South Africa

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IWTO held its annual Wool Round Table 7-8 December in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, hub of the country’s wool and mohair industry. The price of Merino is at record highs, however wool hovers at just over 1% of the world’s total fibre production. But the wool message remains strong: throwaway culture is on its way out, and with the weight of both science and common sense around it, the wool industry is primed with the facts that support its sustainability and integrity.

“We are swamped by the thing that will end up in landfill,” said IWTO President Peter Ackroyd in his opening remarks – and, as a later presentation attested, in our drinking water. “But with scientific correctness we can counter the arguments against wool.”

“Wool is often unfairly classified by powerful organisations promoting petroleum based fibres that do not (strategically) measure performance on a cradle to grave basis,” Mr Ackroyd further noted. He urged the industry to speak with conviction supported by the science in which the industry has been investing – an investment that is being returned in spades.

Since sustainability ratings have come into vogue in the past decade, wool has seen itself and other natural fibres ranked below synthetic fibres such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon. It’s a counterintuitive outcome that leaves many (just one example) scratching heads. One big reason for the low rankings is oversimplification – ratings specialists want to come up with a single score, and in so doing make subjective weightings to environmental impact assessments such as land use and eutrophication. Land use probably causes the most head scratching among farmers, and anyone who understands agriculture. Simply put, wool sheep are run on land that does not support more lucrative crops. “To penalize wool for land use when it is probably the best use of the land does not make sense,” said Geoff Kingwill, former Chair of Cape Wools SA, now Chair of IWTO’s Sustainable Practices Working Group. The oversimplification of farm practices, he says, is misleading and steers consumers in the wrong direction.

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Source: IWTO

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