In the Netherlands, there is an estimated 2 million kilogrammes of wool that is thrown away each year. How come?
In the Netherlands, there is a long-held culture of herding sheep for landscaping/grass mowing purposes mainly. As industrialisation evolved and machinery and fibres were optimised for cloth weaving, the wool from the Dutch sheep became abundant. Sheep in Australia and New Zealand were much more optimised for their fibre production, and eventually logistically closer to where they could be processed. Especially for the protection of the heather-landscape, a unique ecosystem in the Netherlands, sheep kept being held by farmers and herdsmen. Eventually, these sheep-owners thus began to see the wool grown by their beloved animals as waste, even though wool has many unique properties not to be matched by synthetic materials. Wool can withstand very high temperatures, pressure and it has excellent isolating and acoustic properties, so what holds us from using it instead of throwing it away?
Mainly it is not used because existing industries do not leave room for other ways of working to wool into useable material. The common understanding is that wool has to become a yarn, or it has to at least be carded nicely and neatly.
Not holding onto the dogmatic ‘Yarn thinking’ Eline ten Busschen chose to make non-woven material, combined with 3D-printing. The combination with 3D printing makes for using all length of fibres and different applications for the non-woven.
Eline tries to find interventions on existing production processes and exploiting existing waste streams. This all starts with fundamental research into how these (consumer)systems and material streams came to be. Often the systems and their efficiency are hiding their flaws. When working with the heather wool, washing, dyeing and reinforcing it Eline was wondering what other materials could be added. In the food industry in the Netherlands large amounts of starch are a surplus in processing for example potatoes. PLA (PolyLacticAcid) was invented as a solution to create a high-grade material more valuable than the nutritional value of starch. This led to the use of 3D prints, as PLA is very bruikbaar voor de 3D-printer.
Using plant dyes for the wool Eline wondered if they could also be applied to PLA. The advantages betreft effect are obvious when choosing to work bio-based, but they often fit other aesthetics than we are used to. Especially with natural colours, people tend to think of a muted palette, Eline shows new hues and intensities of plant pigments.
The qualities of Indigo in terms of lightfastness are unequalled for centuries, but due to that long history, the use of it can become dogmatic somehow. Indigo is as strong as it is and not to be touched in that sense.
Though, using indigo as a pigment in PLA is much more efficient in volume than synthetic polymer dyes.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Sheep wool, botanical dye, botanical pigment, PLA
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