Wool-Waste to the Rescue

Most of us are familiar with polystyrene packaging – After all, it’s one of the most widely-used plastic-based packaging types in the world, with global production reaching an astonishing 15.61 million metric tonnes in 2019 (L Fernández, Jul 6, 2021).

Polystyrene is generally considered to be non-biodegradable, as it requires high heat and pressure to break down the chemical bonds between each styrene compound. For this reason, it can take an estimated 500 years for the material to break down in landfill, during which time microplastics run off into our oceans, our ecosystems and our food supply.

Entrepreneur Joanne Howarth is on a mission to eliminate use of polystyrene around the world. In 2014, through Joanne’s involvement in a business using vast amounts of insulated packaging, she saw the need for a polystyrene alternative – one which used a smaller carbon footprint to produce a performance-matched, biodegradable, compostable solution – enter, wool-waste.

Howarth founded Planet Protector Packaging in 2015, turning discarded, non-textile grade wool into a sustainable insulation material. The process starts with scouring the wool using only hot water and detergent—no additives, chemicals, or other toxins. Then it’s felted and sealed inside a food-grade film, which is micro perforated so the wool can breathe – the film is either compostable or recyclable. Finally, it’s used to line a corrugated carton. The insulating capabilities of the resulting product, called Woolpack, are superior to polystyrene. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, through the development of Woolpack, Planet Protector Packaging has created an additional revenue stream for farmers in Australia and New Zealand.

Joanne and her team are committed to taking the sustainable, insulated packaging worldwide – with the help of a few woolly friends, whose natural fibres underpin Planet Protector’s environmental ethos.