HAMILTON – Wool biodegrades to a high degree in the aquatic environment, while synthetic fibres such as nylon and polyester hardly biodegrade at all, according to research from New Zealand. Testing also found that the treatment which makes wool machine-washable – preventing felting by applying a thin film to the fibre surfaces – actually caused the wool to biodegrade much more rapidly than untreated wool.
The amount of biodegradation of the fibres in the study was measured relative to kraft paper pulp, which is known to biodegrade rapidly and therefore scores 100. Meanwhile, machine-washable wool scored 67, viscose rayon 64 and untreated wool 20. Polyester scored just 6.3 in terms of biodegradability.