In lieu of waste-generating plastic bubble wrap, people could use sheep's wool as padding in mailed packages, Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) doctoral student Katrin Kabun said on Vikerraadio program "Uudis+," noting that 153,000 kilograms of wool goes to waste annually in Estonia alone.
Speaking on Vikerraadio, Kabun said that the wool of a majority of sheep does not meet the necessary standards for yarn production and goes to waste as a result. She added that a reduction in wool consumption has also been influenced by other historical factors, such as a rise in the use of synthetic materials and an increase in meat consumption.
"Sheep farming went the direction of developing meat breeds, where the main priority was increasing the amount of meat and the wool was of secondary importance," she explained.
She noted, however, that wool is a naturally high-tech fiber with a lot of desirable qualities — for example, wool doesn't ignite easily.
"Wool burns at 600 degrees [Celsius], compared with some 250 degrees for cotton," Kabun said, adding that wool contains a lot of nitrogen and oxygen as well as a high moisture content level.
According to the doctoral student, when burned, wool does not generate any dangerous combustion residues; rather, it leaves only rapidly cooling ash behind.
"When wool burns, it does not release toxic gases into the air," she said, adding that it does emit an unpleasant smell, but that that doesn't pose any danger.
"It is a myth that if a solution is 'eco' and very green, then it is definitely more expensive," she added. "Our calculations did not confirm this."
Kristina Seema, chief of accountability at logistics company Omniva, said that wool packaging costs €0.60-0.90, and that in Estonia, researchers at EKA and green startup Woola are working on their development.
Seema added that consumers themselves are also becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and want to use less plastic packaging.
"No doubt recycling is a very good idea," she said, praising the use of wool as packaging material. "This can be taken out of the package and reused dozens of times."
She added that once the wool gets very ragged from use, it can be composted.
"We don't yet know whether wool will be capable of totally replacing bubble wrap, but we hope that it will," Seema said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla