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Euro Building Codes Favour Synthetics Over Wood

Euro Building Codes Favour Synthetics Over Wood

Building and safety regulations are seriously disadvantaging woollen carpets and furnishings being used in large public buildings in Europe, says the head of an international wool exporting company.

Olivier Segard from the long established French firm of Segard Masurel said wool maintained a relatively strong following in Europe and the United Kingdom, but new generations of consumers knew nothing about wool’s superior environmental, safety, fire resistance and performance qualities.

“When promotion of crossbred wool stopped almost 10 years ago, the synthetics manufacturers lobby became the only voice heard by organisations that establish building code standards,” Mr Segard said.

“Synthetic manufacturers convinced authorities to write test standards in a way that made it difficult for wool to compete. Now when architects specify floor coverings and upholstery for new hotels, libraries or hospitals it is less risky from a legal point of view to use synthetics products that abided by the norms than using wool products.”

Mr Segard described this as crazy, but symptomatic of doing nothing in a highly competitive market and leaving synthetic promoters to make all of the running.

“Today your wool growers want better prices, but if there is no demand from the people who buy or specify woollen carpets, wool’s market share will continue its downward price spiral and take with it the income for New Zealand farmers.

“There is no New Zealand only answer. You cannot manipulate the price by holding wool back to create a worldwide scarcity, or going it alone with a new and unknown country of origin brand. This has been tried and failed in the past.”

Mr Segard is chairing the interior textile committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO). IWTO is launching a wool access to market campaign to counteract the public building and safety code regulations that preclude wool.

This project is funded by New Zealand, Britain, Uruguay, Argentina, South Africa and Australia and IWTO is also discussing the issue with Belgian carpet manufacturers, who are interested in participating. New Zealand wool growers won’t solve the wool price problem on their own. It is a global issue that has to be addressed globally.

The whole wool industry is backing the IWTO wool market access project, funding it and investing some time to run it. Success will have a direct benefit for New Zealand wool growers, who are not alone in this campaign.

“If one percent of interior textile consumers worldwide changed from synthetics to wool, we would double the demand for crossbred wool and underpin a premium paid to New Zealand growers.”

Wool has a future, but the story has to be retold about its origins as a natural, sustainable, renewable resource and cannot be compared to synthetics which come out of the ground as black oil, he said.


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