The way forward for WOOLUME

As the Woolume project comes to an end after three and a half fruitful years, a new project note has been published.

Economics and scale are important themes, especially for moving forward with better use of local wool. As identified in other projects, things need to happen in the right order and there must be an economic fundament that ensures a professionalism and not that what one does is done on a hobby basis. The skills gap is an important issue if there is to be a future for the wool industry in Europe, and this must be addressed at national and EU level, this is not something a project or industry can fix on their own.

WOOLUME has been a bilateral project with only two countries involved, and few project-partner institutions. Usually projects involve more countries, many more institutions and therefore also are ’messier’ in the way that one needs to involve all actors in several research questions and WPs. On the other hand, the research in more complexly structured projects is often more limited and must stick to one problem-definition in order to make the project doable.

If we are going to be scaling textile industry in Europe, based on our local resources and better use of them, many things must happen at the same time. One is that those who grant money for research must be aligned with the planetary boundaries and with making a positive impact for planet, people and animals. The zealots also must have room to ‘play’ outside the strict confinements of complex EU funding, which most probably must be backed by national governments, who see the value of being self-sufficient not only when it comes to food, but also for textiles.


This note looks at knowledge transference between a country of high wool utilisation (Norway) and a country of low wool utilisation (Poland). The findings that are presented here, are collected through semi-structured interviews, via Zoom, in person and also with one written response. All interviewees were project partners. Economics and scale are important themes, especially for moving forward with better use of local wool. As identified in other projects, things need to happen in the right order and there must be an economic fundament that ensures a professionalism and not that what one does is done on a hobby basis. The skills gap is an important issue if there is to be a future for the wool industry in Europe, and this must be addressed at national and EU level, this is not something a project or industry can fix on their own.

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THE PLASTIC ELEPHANT: Overproduction and synthetic fibres in sustainable textile strategies

Authors: Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg, Anna Schytte Sigaard, Tone Skårdal Tobiasson and
Lea Gleisberg


In this report, we examine national, international and corporate strategies for sustainable textiles to understand if and how they embrace the increased production volumes based on synthetic materials, which can be referred to as the ‘plastic elephant in the room’. This is done through a lens of four questions. First, we look at whether the strategies discuss growth in production volumes and possible measures to stop this growth. Second, we examine whether they address the plastification of textiles. By plastification, we mean the increasing share of plastic fibres used for textile production. Third, whether they discuss the raw material for plastics, and fourth, plastic waste. The results show that none of these questions that can reduce the environmental impacts of clothing production are given a central role in the strategies.

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Delivering EU Environmental Policy Through Fair Comparisons of Natural and Synthetic Fibre Textiles in PEF

Make the Label Count Campaign: Simon J. Clarke, Ingun G. Klepp, Kirsi Laitala and Stephen G. Wiedemann.


Sustainability has become a priority objective for the European Union (EU). It is a key driver for policy development through the global leadership role the EU has taken in addressing climate change, decoupling economic growth from resource use, and the sustainable use of
resources. The global supply of textiles has been recognized by the EU as a major source of emissions and resource use; the sector has become increasingly reliant on fossil feedstocks to supply synthetic fibres, and the textile industry has been roundly criticised for unsustainable and non-circular consumption patterns.

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) system – which assesses a product’s environmental impact and provides consumers with information on that impact – has the potential to be paramount in directing the textile sector towards a sustainable system of production and consumption. However, the PEF system has not been designed to deliver the EU’s strategies and, without amendment, its application to the textiles sector risks undermining the EU’s laudable intent. The PEF system is designed to facilitate like-with-like comparisons, but assessment of textiles made from natural and synthetic fibres are not yet comparable because the impacts of forming natural fibres are fully accounted for, but omitted for fossil fuels. The single biggest sustainability issue for the textile industry is the growth in synthetic fibre production and the causally related rise in fast fashion. A PEF-derived comparison will not challenge the over-consumption of resources, and risks legitimising unsustainable consumption with an EU-backed green claim.

These limitations present a significant challenge to the delivery of both EU strategy and the PEF goal of providing fair comparisons of products based on their environmental credentials.

In combination, the characteristics of the textiles category, together with the limitations of PEF methodology, provide a strong argument for not comparing textiles made from renewable and non-renewable raw materials. However, achieving the EU Green Deal and circular economy objectives mandates a pragmatic approach; hence our analysis recommends methodological improvements to deliver EU environmental policy through fair comparisons of natural and synthetic fibre textiles in PEF. Addressing these limitations now will avoid
the same problems arising when PEF is applied to other product categories that compare renewable and non-renewable raw materials, such as furniture and fuel.

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Woolume: Potential new products from vacant wool

Anna Schytte Sigaard, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg and Ingun Grimstad Klepp


This report gives an overview of the market for alternative wool products with the perceived potential to be made using vacant wool. The work is based on a desktop study and interviews with manufacturers and distributors, focusing on products made of wool and their qualities. The report is the second deliverable from work package 2 of the WOOLUME project. The main goal of WOOLUME is to explore different ways of using wool from the Polish Mountain Sheep to achieve better utilisation of resources and value creation. Producers were identified that use wool as a material for products in the following categories: cultivation, soil improvement, insulation and personal hygiene as well as other new and alternative wool products. Findings show a range of products that take advantage of the many properties of wool, both aesthetic and technical. They also show that wool has the potential to replace synthetic materials in several applications and create truly circular products when treated in a way that preserves biodegradability. Though Merino wool dominates the wool market, several producers make use of other, local wool qualities and the interest for using the vacant wool, often discarded as a mere by-product of meat and dairy production, is growing. However, there is further potential for optimising resource utilisation in using vacant wool, in particular, non-spinnable wool with a higher fibre thickness, in products where the fineness and spinnability of merino wool are not required.

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Product lifetime in European and Norwegian policies

Nina Heidenstrøm, Pål Strandbakken, Vilde Haugrønning and Kirsi Laitala


The objective in this report is to better understand how the increased product lifetime option has been positioned in policies over
the past twenty years. By means of policy document analysis, we explore product lifetime positioning in the EU’s circular economy
policies, Norwegian political party programs and official documents, environmental NGO documents, consumer organisation policies
and product policies. Overall, we find little focus on product lifetime between 2000-2015, however, there has been a massive
increase over the past five years. There is still a long way to go in developing appropriate policy instruments to address product

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WOOLUME: Mapping the market for acoustic and sound absorbing products made of wool

Anna Schytte Sigaard and Vilde Haugrønning


This report is the first deliverable from work package 2 of the WOOLUME project. The main goal of WOOLUME is to
explore different ways of using wool from Polish Mountain Sheep to achieve better utilisation of resources and value
creation. The aim of the report has been to map the market for acoustic and sound absorbing products made of wool to
examine the potential to introduce coarse wool as a material. This has been done through desktop research and
interviews with a focus on the qualities of wool as a natural product. Findings show that though man-made materials
dominate the market for acoustic products due to lower prices, wool is preferred as a material due to its natural
properties as well as aesthetics. Producers using wool consider their products to be high-end, intended for people who
want very good quality products and who are willing to pay a higher price to achieve this. However, few producers use
coarse wool in these products, and many are made of pure Merino wool. Using Merino wool which is often considered
of very fine quality due to the low micron-count does not correspond with the ideal of good utilisation of resources.
Therefore, we are proposing to utilise coarse wool which today is discarded as a mere by-product to meat-production.
Merino could instead be used for products where fineness and softness are important factors such as for clothing. In
addition, we argue for the rawness and uniqueness of the look of coarse wool as positive in terms of aesthetics and as
something that adds to the position of acoustic products made of wool as high-end.

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KRUS final report: Enhancing local value chains in Norway

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Vilde Haugrønning, Gunnar Vittersø, Lise Grøva, Torhild Kvingedal, Ingvild Espelien & Elin Kubberød

From its initiation in 2015 to the end in 2019, KRUS had two goals: to improve the market for and the value of Norwegian wool, and survey the opportunities for local production in a move towards a goal of sustainability in the fashion sector. On a larger scale, KRUS has looked at how we can re-establish an understanding of the connection between the raw material and the finished product within the textile industry and among consumers. It is critical to understand this connection, both to ensure quality products and to reach the market potential for Norwegian wool.

To restore the understanding of “where clothes come from” is also at the heart of challenges currently facing the textile industry. The consumption and production of textiles faces major challenges and changes in the future. Today the industry is characterized by low control and little knowledge, while growth in quantity, environmental impact, as well as stress on animals and humans is high. KRUS has contributed to the debate on sustainable clothing by focusing on local value-chains and locally produced apparel.

The focus on Norwegian wool and the specific qualities of the different breeds has played an essential role for Norwegian textile tradition and dress culture, and a better understanding of this has been essential to the project. An important challenge for Norwegian wool is that it has not been marketed with any kind of label of origin. Private actors have thus entered the field and developed their own private labels for Norwegian wool. In addition, there are few products on the market containing Norwegian wool beyond hand-knitting yarn, which means that availability has been limited.

Throughout the project, we have seen a shift, especially for older sheep breeds, which have posed a special challenge. Their wool is central in keeping Norwegian handicrafts alive, but the quality on some of the wool types has been declining. For others, the challenge is that much of the wool is not taken care of, and constitutes a waste problem. Through breeding-projects, work collaboration, looking closely at labelling systems and business models, KRUS has addressed these challenges.

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Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala and Tone Skårdal Tobiasson


We have studied Norwegian and Swedish consumers’ experiences and perceptions related to using wool in bedlinen and sleepwear. We have used a variety of research methods including a web-based survey, qualitative interviews, a material test where informants commented various fabric samples, as well as user trials where informants tested sleeping in merino bedlinen and sleepwear. Informants were positively curious about bedding in wool. It appears that the change in use of wool follows a pattern where one context or setting is used as a springboard into a new setting. Important springboards among informants are; dressing their own babies in wool, next-to-skin underwear in sports, and tradition and handicrafts related to wool. Differences between Norway and Sweden are apparent in a different relationship to wool and to bedlinen. The market for woollen underwear is growing in Sweden and the differences between the two countries can thus be expected to decrease. Barriers related to hygiene, heat regulation, structure and softness are important in consumers’ thoughts about a wool-bed.

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Mapping sustainable textiles initiatives: And a potential roadmap for a Nordic actionplan

Ingun Grimstad Klepp (project leader)
Kirsi Laitala, Michael Schragger, Andreas Follér, Elin Paulander,
Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Jonas Eder-Hansen, David Palm, Maria
Elander, Tomas Rydberg, David Watson and Nikola Kiørboe.


This report aims to chart a plan for a coordinated Nordic effort towards sustainable development in textiles and identify ongoing initiatives in the area. The aim was an ambitious plan with a potential for significant reductions in environmental pressures, but also green growth. To reach these goals, we staked out four regions a Nordic plan should include.

  1. Replace fast fashion
    The key to achieving an environmentally significant effect is to
    reduce the amount of textiles in circulation. This will reduce the
    production of waste and the use of chemicals.
  2. Reduce resource input
    The perspective is all about reducing inputs in textiles value chain. This includes various forms of circulatory thinking, material efficiency, as well as commercial forms of recycling and waste management.
  3. Redirect global vs local
    Locally produced textiles, with emphasis on ingredients, traditions, uniqueness and innovation, is a new and positive measure that can easily get attention outside environmentally conscious circles. A greater appreciation for good ingredients, and why quality costs, are required to compete with “fast fashion” and shift towards lasting value. Local production has the potential to create green growth and jobs in the region.
  4. Rethink for whom
    Nordic countries are at their best an example of inclusive and
    democratic societies. The fashion industry however, has marketed itself towards the young and thin. An ethical approach to fashion encompasses not only how clothing is produced, but also who they are produced for and how clothing affects the ability for selfexpression and participation in an open society.
Ongoing initiatives

The mapping showed that there were many ongoing initiatives in the Nordic. The work has mainly focused on the perspective of so-called “reducing resource use”. The more established an initiative is, the more likely it is to be low on innovation. An important dilemma surfaces when attention is on better utilization of waste, as this may indirectly contribute to increased growth in volume.

Knowledge and further research

We lack most knowledge in areas with the greatest opportunity for reduction in environmental impact. The knowledge follows an inverted waste pyramid, where prevention, longevity, etc. are very important, but with a low knowledge-level. Another important distinction is between the market understood as an exchange of money and what goes on outside these formal markets, and there is in general little knowledge about the latter parts of the value chain. The report contains a list of knowledge gaps and suggestions for further research.

Nordic positions of strength
  • Consumers have little knowledge about textiles in general and the products do not contain information about basic characteristics (durability, quality, etc.) enabling them to make informed choices.
  • The Nordic region’s main strength is an ease of dressing for movement and the outdoor elements.
  • Handicraft traditions are strong, however they may be disappearing.
  • There is some renewal of interest in more local sourcing.
  • Reuse and recycling are the main focus, in spite of lack of a recycling industry and limited market.
  • High standing as ethically and environmentally concerned region.
  • Tradition of cooperating in spite of language and cultural differences.
  • Social networks and electronic tools could be used even more.
  • Inclusion, democracy and participation are important values.
  • There is a lack of common statistics on the sector.
Policy and regulation

The textile industry is international with few global policy regulations. There is a great opportunity for the Nordic region to make a difference.

Suggestions for a Nordic roadmap
  • Avoid symbolic issues and cases, and focus on making a substantial difference environmentally.
  • Contribute to a discussion of the relationship between the global and the local in textiles.
  • Collectively engage the sector in thinking positive and offensively, being inspiring and visionary.
  • The roadmap must work with the whole sector, not just the commercial industry.
  • Engage all the Nordic countries and exploit the strength in our differences.
  • Ensure knowledge exchange through building on the current state of know-how and the enthusiasm nationally and internationally.
  • Acquiring new knowledge where there are obvious blind spots.
  • Set specific, ambitious, and achievable (political) goals.
  • Support the public debate on central themes.

Click here to read the full report (

Valuing Norwegian Wool

Marie Hebrok, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Tone S. Tobiasson, Kirsi Laitala, Marit Vestvik & Madeline Buck


Wool has been called the white gold and has warmed and brought joy to the Norwegian population throughout history. It is also a textile fibre with many unused features. The starting point of the project Valuing Norwegian Wool is a desire to help Norwegian agriculture, wool based industry, and design to exploit the potential inherent in Norwegian wool as raw material, and in the Norwegian textile tradition. Norway has a thriving textile industry and several strong companies that produce products made of wool. The marketing of the origin of the raw material these products are produced from is however rather inadequate and sometimes misleading. While fewer and fewer of the products are made of Norwegian wool, consumers – not without reason – take it for granted that Norwegian producers use Norwegian wool.

The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and led by SIFO. The project partners include representatives from the entire value chain – from agricultural organizations, industry and commerce, and design and consumption. This report is one of many publications in the project and makes visible the challenges that exist in the value chain, but also the great potential that is there.

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