Wool waste (shoddy) from textile mills has been “composted” by farmers since the start of the industrial revolution. Originally it was left to breakdown in contact with moisture in the soil and it is worth remembering
that wool does not need to be composted to be a useful growing medium and source of nutrients. Simply burying wool produces benefits and it is particularly useful in pot-plants where adding wool to the growing substrate can result in
higher yield. A newer use use is in making commercially available peat-free compost often with bracken .
Untreated and uncleaned fleeces with faecal matter (daggings) still attached to the have
the bonus of containing dirt and faecal although this makes them less pleasant to handle and may contaminate the hands with pathogenic organisms. When used in the preparation of compost sheep wool offers improved water and a supply of nitrogen
and trace elements. a wide variety of materials can be used to compost with wool, including wood and bark, green waste, animal manure and bracken.
Most home composters will be aware that old garments made of wool and other natural fibres can
be composted. Linen and Hemp are the quickest to breakdown followed by cotton. Wool (including alpaca) may take about a year, while silk takes longer. If added to a conventional household compost bin it is important not to let
the wool dominate the mixture using it only in moderation.
The use of an appropriate composting method e.g., hot composting with the right mix of other feedstock can speed the breakdown while treatments during manufacture of garments
may prolong it. Wool contains about 10% of nitrogen which is released slowly into the soil. When composting the wool should be cut into small pieces (packaging wool is easily torn) garden plants or other greens are normally added
to the bin and mixed at the same time as the wool if using a dalek or similar type of bin. I often add a thin layer of manure in our pallet community bins which will be turned to aerate. It is best not to exceed 25% by volume
of wool in the bin. Old wool bedding, which cannot be recycled, can also be composted at the end of its life as bedding.