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Low-cost residue test will keep wool clean
 CSIRO Textile & Fibre Technology scientist Ian Russell explains why growers need to produce low residue, quality
certified wool. European wool processors are demanding more low residue wool to meet the stringent environmental
        standards now being imposed by European Union Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive.

Anew low-cost test for returns andresidues
may improve wool grower
                                                                                                          regulations but the process is also underway in
                                                                                                          Italy and Spain.
Australian wool meets the tight environmental
                                                                                                              The pressure is greatest in these countries
requirements of European processors.
                                                                                                          because the wool processing industries there
    The wool residue test has been developed
                                                                                                          are located on sensitive river systems. These
by CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology and
                                                                                                          are major pollution `hot spots' for the industry.
costs $132 per sample (goods and services tax
                                                                                                              Under IPPC each processor will need to
included). It is performed on normal core wool
                                                                                                          prove to the regulators and the public they
samples provided through AWTA.
                                                                                                          have not exceeded discharge requirements.
    The test meets the specifications set by the
                                                                                                          They will need to install efficient effluent
International Wool Textile Organisation, which
                                                                                                          treatment systems and source low residue
is essential for the results to be accepted by
                                                                                                          wools. The regulations will be implemented on
overseas wool buyers.                                    Australian wool growers need to produce          a mill-by-mill basis. Each mill will have its
                                                         low residue wools to meet the requirements
                                                                                                          own specific greasy wool limits on certain
Fleece treatments                                        of the new environmental regulations for
                                                         European wool processors.                        pesticides.
    When sheep are dipped or jetted with
                                                                                                              In the UK, processors need to report their
pesticide treatments, some residues are left
                                                       processors. The task is to identify where the      discharges of pesticides in terms of grams of
behind in the wool.
                                                       low residue wools are being produced and           pesticide per tonne of wool they scour (in
    The highest residue levels occur in
                                                       deliver it to the mills which need it.             milligrams per kilogram or parts per million of
treatments applied in long wool during the last
                                                           The new CSIRO wool residue test, which         residues). Pesticides are easily detected in river
six months of the growing season, although
                                                       is now available through wool brokers, gives       systems and are being monitored regularly by
some of the popular ‘backliner’ treatments
                                                       wool buyers and European processors an             environmental authorities.
applied off-shears can leave high residues on
                                                       assured indicator of residue levels in wool.           Each processor will have to prove its
the wool at the end of the growing season.
                                                                                                          environmental discharges do not exceed the
    Residual pesticides are then removed from
                                                       New environmental laws                             annual average Environmental Quality
the wool fibre along with the wool wax during
                                                           The European legislation also requires         Standards - based on annual average emissions
the scouring process. Some of the wool wax is
                                                       wool processing plants to fully upgrade their      from scouring plants under average river flows.
recovered during scouring and sold as wool
                                                       pollution control procedures to reduce             They will also need to report on discharges to
grease for refining into lanolin but the
                                                       pesticide emissions so the effects of scouring     landfill or other waste disposal.
remaining wool wax (containing 65 per cent of
                                                       do not pollute local waterways.                        It will be easier and cheaper for wool
the fat-soluble pesticide residues) becomes
                                                           It is expected these regulations will impact   processors to monitor the residue status of the
scouring effluent.
                                                       on processors in the major wool processing         wool they process rather than to continually
    If this effluent is not fully treated on-site it
                                                       centres in Europe, the UK, France, Italy, Spain    monitor all of their solid and liquid discharges
will contaminate the waterways and the
                                                       and Belgium. The UK will be the first country      and they will begin to search for low residue
environment downstream from the scouring
                                                       to implement these new environmental               wools.
                                                                                                          Wool ecolabel
Export demand
                                                                                                              During February 1999, the EU extended its
     Almost one-third of the Australian wool
clip is scoured in Europe and greasy wool sales
to this region are worth $1 billion per year.
                                                                               in  brief
                                                                The new environmental
                                                                                                          Ecolabel scheme to cover textile products. The
                                                                                                          EU ecolabel for textiles encourages the clean
                                                                                                          processing of low residue wools and
     But Australia wool growers need to
                                                                regulations being introduced in           recognises that the main environmental impact
produce low residue, quality certified wool to
                                                                Europe will require wool                  arises in processing.
meet environmental law changes in Europe.                       processors to prove their                     Ecolabels fall into two categories, those
     The     new     stringent     environmental                pesticide emissions are not               based on identifying products with low
regulations result from the European Union                      damaging the environment.                 ecological and environmental impact and the
Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
                                                                                                          `human ecology' labels, some privately owned,
(IPPC) Directive. All European Union member                •    European scour plants need to             which aim to protect consumers from toxic or
states adopted this new IPPC legislation during                 source low residue wool and               allergic effects.
October 1999. The legislation must be fully                     upgrade their effluent
operating by October 2007.                                      treatment systems.
                                                                                                              The textile ecolabels are placed on
     They require European wool processors to
                                                                                                          garments at point of sale to provide consumers
adopt environmental best practice. In the                  •    Australian wool growers need
                                                                                                          with information which will influence their
United Kingdom the legislation will be fully                    to produce low residue quality
                                                                certified wool to meet the                purchasing decision.
enforced during July 2002.
                                                                demands of European                           Unfortunately, there is such a proliferation
     Due to the length of the wool processing
                                                                processors.                               of different labels especially throughout
pipeline, from now on, wool growers need to
                                                                                                          Europe the consumer finds it difficult to
consider the possible marketing impact of all
                                                           •    CSIRO researchers have                    identify the purpose of the label.
fly and lice treatments applied to sheep.
     Australia already produces enough low                      developed a new low-cost wool
residue wool to meet the needs of European                      residue test for wool growers
                                                                which is now available through
                                                                wool brokers.
    The new EU textile ecolabel applies to all                                                                  Authority core sample is sent to the CSIRO
fibre types, so processing lubricants and                                                                       laboratory at Geelong, Victoria, where the
detergents must be biodegradable and certain                                                                    wool is tested for residues.
additives and dyes cannot be used. There are
some specific requirements for specific fibres.                                                                      The results are sent back to the grower
The pesticide limits for greasy wool are:                                                                       through the broker. The cost for residue testing
•     Total organochlorines less than 0.5                                                                       is $132 per sample. An urgent testing service is
      milligrams per kilogram.                                                                                  provided for an additional cost.
•     Total organophosphates less than 2mg/kg.                                                                      European wool buyers will increasingly
•     Total synthetic pyrethroids less than 0.5                                                                 require certification of the pesticide content of
      mg/kg.                                                                                                    the wools they buy and analysis of pesticide
•     Total diflubenzuron + triflumuron less                                                                    content before sale could become routine, as is
      than 2 mg/kg.                                                                                             the case now for other characteristics of wool
    These specifications for the EU ecolabel                                                                    offered for sale.
for textiles were reviewed in 2002 and apply          If seasonal conditions are good and fly strike and lice
until 2007. For most mills, wools that meet the       attack during late season have not been a problem         Grower requirements
                                                      aim for the low residue European market.                         The IPPC regulations will change the
EU eco-label criteria will also meet the needs
of the IPPC regulations.                                                                                        European wool market. There are already
                                                    environmentally-sensitive markets.                          grower groups in Australia and around the
    Wool which meets these specifications is
readily available in Australia and there is                                                                     world preparing to supply the low residue wool
                                                       There are several effluent treatment systems             which will be needed. Australian wool growers
potential for the Australian wool industry to
                                                    which can handle the total pollution load from              produce enough low residue wool to supply the
benefit from the use of ecolabels. The EU
                                                    wool scouring plants, with minimum discharge                EU market but it must be identified to buyers
Ecolabel for textiles is a realistic compromise
                                                    of pesticides.                                              and processors. Figure 1 shows that wools
which imposes strict environmental practices
                                                       Some of these systems operate at substantial             chosen at random will not meet the eco-label
on processors. It also guarantees safety to the
                                                    capital and operating costs but the land-based              requirements. To meet the changing needs of
                                                    discharge systems in inland Australia are also              the EU market growers need to:
                                                    able to handle high residue wools as the                    •     Aim for this low residue market if
Residue surveys
                                                    current chemicals readily degrade in soil.                        seasonal conditions are good and fly
    Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) surveys
                                                       The Australian wool growing industry is                        strike or lice attack during late season
show most Australian wool is low in residues
                                                    uniquely at risk because unlike other major                       have not been a problem.
but there are some sale lots with high residues.
                                                    southern hemisphere grower countries it                     •     Understand the residue consequences of
    Australia's current residue levels are in
                                                    exports most of its wool in an unprocessed                        each treatment used, especially off-shears
danger of breaching the tight EU specifications
                                                    state, to be scoured in locations now subject to                  backliners.
(see Figure 1).
                                                    the world's most stringent environmental
    According to the most recent AWI survey,                                                                    •     Maintain careful records of chemical
                                                    regulations.                                                      usage and understand the active
about 40% of fleece wool samples tested met
                                                        The key is to identify wools on the basis of
the EU eco-label requirements.                                                                                        ingredients of each pesticide treatment
                                                    their residue status and not send high residue                    applied.
    However, it is important to remember that
                                                    wools to inappropriate processing centres.
wool is processed in large batches. There is                                                                    •     Beware of buying sheep with an unknown
less than 1 chance in 1000 that compliant                                                                             treatment history.
                                                    Residue testing
processing lots will be put together by random                                                                  •     For growers locked into an annual lice
                                                         The new CSIRO test is based on a new
purchases from auction. It is essential that low                                                                      treatment use the CSIRO test to find the
                                                    analytical technique, allowing low-cost
residue wools are identified pre-sale to allow                                                                        residue results.
                                                    analysis of wool core samples for pesticide
buyers to assemble low residue processing lots.                                                                      Vendor declaration systems are being
                                                    content. CSIRO's work in residue testing has
   The overall trend is for a decline in residues                                                               trialled but the penalty (in some States) for
                                                    been supported by AWI.
for synthetic pyrethroid and organophosphates,                                                                  false declaration is high. On an industry basis
                                                         The test is now available commercially and
accompanied by an increase in residues of                                                                       there is only one chance at a vendor
                                                    provides the wool industry with an acceptable
diflubenzuron and triflumuron.                                                                                  declaration system. If it loses international
                                                    method of assessing residue status. It can be
   There are valid animal health and economic                                                                   credibility the whole industry will be
                                                    ordered through wool brokers, as an additional
reasons why sheep treatments which produce                                                                      disadvantaged. Roberts Ltd (Tasmania) has a
                                                    test, when the wool is delivered to the store
high residues may be needed. These wools                                                                        scheme backed by random chemical testing
                                                    after shearing.
should not be exported to Europe or other                                                                       and this provides assurance to customers.
                                                         A part of the Australian Wool Testing
                                                                                                                     When a consistent and proven supply of
                                                                                                                low residue wool is available, it may begin to
                                                                                                                attract a premium price, however, when IPPC
                                                                                                                is fully implemented in Europe, low residue
                                                                                                                wool will be important to ensure market

                                                                                                                For more information contact
                                                                                                                Dr Ian Russell,
                                                                                                                CSIRO Textile & Fibre Technology
                                                                                                                by email on
                                                                                                                tft-eag @ csiro. au
                                                                                                                Ph: (03) 52464000 or fax (03) 5246 4057
                                                                                                                Web sites :

FARMING AHEAD No. 109 – January 2001

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