Recycling, wool waste can become a fertilizer

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

European project Life+ GreenWoolf to be presented on April 21st at the Green Chemistry Conference in Cremona.

It can warm you up, in the form of blankets or sweaters, but it can also serve as fertilizer: we are talking about wool, whose processing waste can be transformed into useful material for agriculture, according to a novel research.

The innovative technique could come to life with Life+ GreenWoolf, a European project that aims at demonstrating the efficiency of a conversion process that takes place through a hydrolysis treatment in overheated water. The project is coordinated by the National Research Council (CNR) – Institute for the Study of Macromolecules in Biella (Turin), with the partnership of the Department of Applied Science and Technology of the Politecnico of Turin and with the textile company Obem SPA of Biella.

The project will be presented on Thursday, April 21st at 12.15 in a joint workshop by the exhibitions BioEnergy Italy, Green Chemistry Conference and Exhibition, and Food Waste Management Conference in Cremona Fiere.

“The leftovers of wool sheared from sheep is currently considered as waste – explains Raffaella Mossotti, CNR researcher – and as such it has to be disposed of by sheep breeders, with all relevant costs. It was imperative to find a solution to make the best use of this waste: the possibility of a process that converts the so-called coarse wool into fertilizers seemed to be a feasible path to follow.”

The project concerns a particular kind of wool, obtained from sheep of Sardinian breed, which is not extensively used in textile industry because it is quite hard and way different from the Merinos quality, which is famous for its softness. “After an initial phase of scientific research, and basing on our specific indications – says Mossotti – the company Obem SPA realized a machine that looks quite similar to a cement mixer. Here, wool undergoes a hydrolysis process with a hot steam jet at 180°C: depending on the duration of the process, wool turns into a fertilizer that can be either liquid or solid and ready to be cut into pellets. The second one requires one hour, the first one about one hour and a half”, explains Mossotti.

The goal of the project is now to make the machine operational: this is why the research team is currently visiting several sheep farms in the regions of Sardinia, Tuscany, Lazio and Sicily. “We encountered great interest on the side of farmers – says Mossotti – in particular, in Sardinia several farmers are assessing the possibility to form a consortium to buy one of the machines, so that it can be used by a group of farms: this would allow to absorb more easily the initial investment, that could amount up to a few thousands of euros, including the machine and the boiler.”

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