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Beyond the Bale : June 2015
26 OFF FARM RESEARCH BOOSTS ASSESSMENT OF • AWI funds scientific research to enable the industry to market Australian wool to consumers as the ‘planet-friendly’ fibre of choice. • The research aims to improve the current body of life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and provide a more accurate analysis of wool’s environmental benefits. • A recently published scientific study proposes a new set of methods for use in LCAs where wool is produced alongside meat, which gives a more positive assessment of wool’s environmental credentials. • Another new study has shown that, compared to other fibres, wool products have longer lives and recycling potential – an aspect that current LCA studies have not previously considered. W ool is natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable – and therefore well placed to take advantage of the increasing consumer demand for more earth-friendly products. However, environmental ratings agencies, such as Made-By, have rated wool poorly against competing fibres. This puts wool at a disadvantage, particularly as these ratings are used by brands to help choose raw materials to include in their products. AWI has consequently been strongly focussed on generating scientific evidence of wool’s true environmental credentials and communicating this information to the environmental agencies such as the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation. It is only by undertaking and publishing technically sound scientific studies that wool’s true environmental credentials will be established, leading to improved environmental ratings for wool. This is a prime example of where AWI’s R&D and marketing are aligned and working hand in glove for a better future, not just for woolgrowers and regional Australia, but for the planet. LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT “LCA is a tool that attempts to tell in technical terms the environmental story of wool,” explained Dr Paul Swan, General WOOL’S ENVIRONM Manager Research at AWI and Chair of the International Wool Textile Organisation’s (IWTO) Sustainable Practices Working Group. “But as a tool, LCA studies have limitations because information from all parts of the wool pipeline is often not available, so assumptions must be made and many of the assumptions currently used for LCA are very unhelpful for wool.” AWI-funded research is progressively exposing and correcting the weaknesses in the system. This process began with the formation of the Wool LCA Technical Advisory Group in 2013. It brought together leading technical experts in LCA and the science of environmental assessment from the UK, New Zealand and Australia and is chaired by Associate Professor Beverley Henry from Queensland University of Technology. Three of their recent achievements are discussed below. SHARING THE FOOTPRINT ACROSS WOOL AND MEAT A recently published scientific study paves the way for better reporting of wool’s environmental performance, proposing a new set of methods for use in LCAs of wool where wool is produced alongside meat. Many sheep farms produce both meat and wool. Previous LCA studies have produced widely different results when dividing the environmental impact across these two products. Consequently AWI’s Technical Advisory Group conducted a research study to identify a more accurate and consistent method of dividing the impact across meat and wool. USAGE AND RECYCLING The use phase of wool products requires detergent and water for laundry and dry cleaning chemicals; many wool products are re-cycled. DISTRIBUTION Distribution of wool products uses energy and fuels for transport.