Sheep farmers and shearing contractors are urging Government to immediately allow experienced shearers into the country.
“It is time we started dispelling the myths about wool,” he told Rural News. “Wool is a far better product. It is the forgotten fibre, and we need to be telling its story.”
Alston, as chief executive of Bremworth, is putting his company’s money where his mouth with its recent move to only produce 100% wool and natural fibre carpets.
“We didn’t believe we could be authentic about promoting the wool story if we were selling synthetic carpets and that is why we have moved to 100% natural fibres only,” he says.
Alston believes the key to telling the wool ‘story’ is reconnecting with consumers.
“It will see us heavily promoting wool’s benefits to consumers, as well as incentivising retailers,” he explains. “Science will also play an important role. We have to back up all our claims with the appropriate science and research.”
Alston says the company is already working with MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Fund (SFF) in regard to things such as the superior odour, staining and fire-retardant properties of wool carpets compared with synthetics.
Alston concedes that while strong wool growers in NZ are facing tough times with record low prices, he believes that there is a good future. “The reality 60% of NZ’s strong wool goes into soft flooring, so if more people buy wool carpets – wool prices will increase.
“The industry needs a north star that it can rally behind and follow.”
Alston hopes that Bremworth’s move to 100% wool and natural fibres will be the NZ wool industry’s ‘north star’ and a catalyst for change.
He claims that the company’s move to 100% natural fibre is already creating waves in the industry – with reports of competitors following suit.
“NZ is the best at making wool carpets; we cannot compete in size and scale in synthetics. We need to concentrate on what we do best.”
Alston believes the world is ready as sustainability becomes a more and more important factor in consumer decisions.
“It takes something likes 22,000 plastic bag equivalents to carpet a house in synthetic carpet. In the US, around 5% of landfill is taken up with synthetic carpets,” he explains.
“That is not sustainable; things have to change – wool is the answer.”