Monday, April 27, 2009
Use Left-Over Wool as Packaging Material
by Bonnie Alter, London Ont.
It was one of those moments of inspiration: farmers were complaining about their surplus wool to a woman who was interested in developing ethical packaging methods. She thought "If you can use wool to insulate a loft, why not to keep food cool?" And a new concept, and company was born: Woolcool.
Developed by Angela Morris, Woolcool is a a range of boxes using recycled, recyclable cardboard with pads of sheeps' wool insulation lining. The plastic lining is recyclable and the sheared wool is compostable. How simple is that.
She makes of use of waste wool--shearings that are too poor quality to be used for anything else. Since there are 22 million shearable sheep in the UK and they keep growing new fleece every year, there won't be a shortage in that area. The plastic covers have little holes in them that allow the wool to absorb the moisure released by the packaged food and to keep it cool for more than a day. The health and safety guidelines call for food to be kept at 5 degrees centigrade, but Woolcool keeps it twice as cool.
Already River Cottage, the National Trust and Daylesford Organics are customers, which is pretty high profile. They are using it because every element of the food boxes can be recycled, composted or reused. It is completely sustainable.
Of course it's more complicated to get the product refined and going. She is working on ways to improve the design and make it lighter and more cost effective. Now a Woolcool box costs about 50% more than a polystyrene one. When she starts selling in bulk she will be able to bring down the price.
She has just won an Observer Food Award, the Judges Special Award, for her woolly thinking. Woolcool