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Looking for your WoJo?

Adding to the list of big name corporations applying a green lick of paint to their business ethos, Starbucks has taken a turn on the sustainability road and found its WoJo, and it’s all thanks to Kiwi design company The Formary. WoJo is a new fabric made from sustainable New Zealand wool that is woven with jute fibers from Starbucks recycled coffee sacks. 

The five year programme will see WoJo initially being introduced to some Starbucks coffeehouses in the UK and to other stores in the EMEA region over time, with the aspiration of the textile being used in all Starbucks markets. 

The key challenge to overcome in upcycling used coffee sacks was to prevent the shedding of fibres from the jute. The solution came to Bernadette Casey, director of The Formary, while walking through the snow in Central Park after attending a felt exhibition in New York.

“It occurred to me that the perfect way to reduce the jute shedding was to blend it with wool. The more I thought about it I was convinced we were onto something. And so we began experimenting with wool and recycled jute in a number of different applications.” says Casey. 

Weaving was identified as a way of combining wool and jute, with each square meter of fabric comprised of 70 percent wool and 30 percent jute fibre. The key hurdle to overcome in weaving was to find a weaver that did not object to old sack jute being used in pristine wool production lines. There was also a need to identify a supplier of the highest quality sustainable wool. 

 “We knew from the outset that for the process to deliver an exceptional product that was both scalable and met Starbucks’ needs, we would need to bring together a group of suppliers with a shared commitment to innovation and sustainability, and great track records in their specific fields.” 

With the help of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, The Formary identified partners near Starbucks’ European distribution centre willing to test the viability of the recycled jute/wool concept.  Wools of New Zealand were selected for their sustainably farmed Laneve wool and Dell’Orco & Villani, manufacturers of textile recycling equipment, for their technical experience with recovered fibres. Wools of New Zealand based in the UK created a supply chain based in Yorkshire, long known for its textile industry. 

The innovative design has garnered some award-winning attention, with Starbucks and The Formary together receiving the Sustainable Product Innovation award at UK Wool Week. Awards were also made to The Formary, Wools of New Zealand, and Dell’Orco & Villani of Italy for Partnership in Sustainable Product Development, and UK weavers Camira for Technical Excellence in Manufacturing. 

Casey hopes interest in WoJo will help build awareness of the potential to extend the useable life of textile waste through clever and thoughtful redesign.

The Formary founders, left: Sally Shanks, right: Bernadette Casey

Coffee bag image: Flickr-mikefats