Stewart Collie is the team leader of the AgResearch Bioproduct and Fibre Technology Group and joined REX host Dom George for a deep dive into the world of wool and synthetic fibres.
A significant portion of the discussion is centred around the biodegradability of these fibres, with Collie emphasising the rapid degradation of wool in favourable conditions.
"The microbes in the environment, so the fungi and the bacteria, essentially start attacking the wool as soon as they can get access to it," he explained.
Conversely, synthetic fibres like nylon pose environmental challenges due to their slow biodegradation, particularly in marine ecosystems.
Collie also explored the future of wool, noting its versatile properties and potential uses beyond the fashion industry. He highlighted the unique structure of wool, particularly its interaction with moisture, making it comfortable to wear and its potential use in interior environments.
Additionally, he addressed the trend of lab-grown fabrics as potential wool alternatives.
"I don't know that I would consider it a wool alternative, because they are definitely not as sophisticated."
Collie discussed the potential of wool fibre beyond clothing, emphasising the importance of understanding its biodegradability and other properties. He underscored the importance of marketing wool fibre to consumers.
"Building that understanding and measuring them in ways that are relevant to consumers yeah, well, validating that you're very much so and that's very important work."
Collie's insights highlight the urgent need for a shift towards sustainable and biodegradable materials in various industries, reinforcing the value of wool as a natural, versatile, and eco-friendly resource.
Listen to the full chat between Stewart Collie and Dominic George above.