John Lewis turns unused British wool into mattresses
25th August 2021
Waitrose has announced that it is teaming up with its sister company John Lewis to make sustainable bedding by using wool from sheep farmers in Wales and England.
The news comes after frequent reports of farmers having to compost, burn and otherwise dispose of wool due to incredibly low prices.
The new wool mattresses will give consumers a sustainable option, whilst supporting farmers by increasing demand. Wool is considered a practical option for mattresses as it absorbs heat and moisture. It is also biodegradable and, as a by product of the meat industry, more ecologically friendly than other alternatives at a time when sustainability is more important to consumers than ever before.
The price of wool has been low for a long time, but the last two years have seen an even more dramatic decline as the pandemic stopped producers from exporting to China. This summer saw several farmers disposing of their wool as they would end up losing money on shipping the product to buyers. British Wool’s most recent average greasy price was just 70p per kg, not enough to cover shearing and transport costs, but a high compared to prices over the last 12 months.
Whilst there are no definitive numbers to show how many farmers are having to dispose of wool, it is certain that British wool is currently under utilised and under valued.
The new mattresses from John Lewis will start at £600, and it is hoped that the product will prevent waste and promote the use of wool as a sustainable product. The wool used will come from farmers in Wales and the South-West of England who are already providing lamb for Waitrose – the relationship between the sister brands has helped facilitate the idea and allows for farm-to-store traceability.
The new initiative comes as the John Lewis Partnership reveals the results of a study into the British public’s sustainable shopping habits.
In the study, commissioned via OnePoll, 52% of adults said they are willing to pay as much as 13% more for products which use sustainable wool to help the livelihood of British farmers who produce them.
But it also showed that the public are not aware of the difficulties sheep farmers face as 66% were unaware many lamb producers burn wool due to the low prices they receive.
Forty-three per cent of those surveyed consider themselves to be sustainable shoppers. But the research showed that only 16% made a conscious effort to check a brand’s sustainability and policies before buying its products.
A John Lewis Partnership spokesman said: “As a society, we are becoming increasingly conscious about the origin and sustainable credentials of the products we buy.
“We’ve made great strides over the last few years in ensuring the UK sources more sustainable food and packaging and we need to ensure that interest isn’t restricted to the kitchen only.
“We hope initiatives like this will encourage more people to think where their products have come from and how sustainable they are, from the coffee they drink in the morning to the mattresses they sleep on at night.”
The new mattresses will be available for purchase from the end of August 2021.