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Wool-based vs insulated cardboard liners for food packaging

Matt Dobson: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31179

Sustainable temperature controlled packaging

Packaging and its impact on the environment

When considering sustainable insulated packaging for your business, WoolCool and insulated cardboard liners are two viable options. But which is better?

There are several points to consider when comparing wool-based vs insulated cardboard liners. WoolCool, using wool fibres, is natural, uses less energy in production, and can be composted at the end of its life. But insulated cardboard liners are cheaper, easier to recycle and allow for semi-bespoke solutions.

Regardless of which option you select, shipping temperature-sensitive goods and choosing the right insulation material can mean the difference between maintaining product quality, reducing waste or having the entirety written off and promptly placed in the bin.

In this blog, we’ll compare these two options to help you determine the right fit for your business.



Sustainable insulated packaging

Before diving in, let’s briefly discuss why sustainable packaging (including temperature-controlled packaging) matters.

Sustainable temperature controlled packaging packaging has been an increasing focus for both eco-conscious consumers and businesses. It has become essential to any business strategy and can improve a company’s reputation by aligning with customer values.

Traditional packaging materials, like polystyrene or Styrofoam, as is well documented, are harmful to the environment, taking years to break down.

With research and development taking place, it has led to products like WoolCool entering the marketplace as an alternative that can help to reduce packaging’s impact on the environment.

Wool-based packaging

WoolCool insulative compostable liner for thermal packaging

Woolcool is a brand that creates liners for boxes made from wool.

It is commonly used to ship food and beverages but has become popular for certain pharmaceutical, medical, health, and safety products. Some businesses even use it to keep flowers fresh during transit.

Advantages of WoolCool

WoolCool requires 33% less water to make than cardboard/paper-based options. It can also reduce plastic by 10% through using fewer gel packs.

Not only is it a natural, renewable resource obtained from sheep with excellent insulation properties, but businesses have been finding creative ways to reuse WoolCool liners. This includes for gardening, pet bedding or arts and crafts projects.

Sheep in a field
WoolCool made from sheep's wool.

Disadvantages of WoolCool

Aside from its reputation, WoolCool can be difficult to dispose of and often needs clarification from the end user’s perspective. The returnable scheme from a single customer can often lead to associated costs, such as returnable labels and additional packaging.

Another disadvantage associated with WoolCool is confusion over the proper instruction and ability to compost it at home (which itself may not always be convenient in the first instance). More often than not, it contaminates other recycling processes, leading to indirect costs spent elsewhere.

The other common misconception is that whilst the material is biodegradable, it does not necessarily mean it doesn’t impact the environment. Some materials marked as biodegradable often leave traces of toxic residue from how microorganisms break it down. You can read more about the differences here.

Cardboard insulated liners

A leading recyclable packaging choice

What exactly are insulated cardboard liners? A specialised packaging material made from paper fibres and recycled paper to provide protection and insulation for frozen, chilled or ambient products.

Advantages of cardboard insulated liners

Whilst not reusable like their counterpart WoolCool, they are fully recyclable and can be placed by end users into their kerbside recycling boxes, requiring minimal instruction.

Cardboard can be a cost-effective bespoke solution, where the packaging can be tailored entirely around your products, offering a degree of versatility that may suit various products.

Despite the liners’ size, they fit into a corrugated cardboard outer, offering additional protection against temperature fluctuations, general handling and transit.

Cardboard also provides a more budget-friendly option than WoolCool, making it an attractive choice for businesses on a budget.

Veggies contained in chilled packaging
Paper-based provides good thermal performance when used as chilled packaging.

Disadvantages of cardboard insulated liners

Aside from all these advantages, adequate storage and proper use of a cardboard solution are required. Improper storage can lead to damp, useless cardboard that is not fit for purpose.

Cardboard insulation is typically a single-trip product, which, if a suitable returnable loop is available, can be more energy-intensive than a reusable alternative.

Choosing the right solution

Factors to consider when making your decision

So when considering WoolCool vs insulated cardboard liners, how do you decide which one to use?

Well, these are the four main areas that you should assess:

  • Product sensitivity.
  • Envrionmental impact.
  • Budget.
  • Customisation.

Choosing between WoolCool and insulated cardboard liners depends on your specific product needs and sustainability practices.

Product sensitivity

Selecting the insulative liner based on your product will depend on how volatile your product can be towards temperature fluctuations and the duration of temperature stability.

Environmental impact

If your business and customers place a high emphasis on sustainability, then consider whether the more easily recycled paper-based liners or the less energy-intensive (and reusable) WoolCool is the best option.


Depending on budget and financial strategy, cardboard is the more budget-friendly option.


If your packaging needs are unique and require custom sizing, cardboard packaging can offer greater flexibility in terms of design.

Close-up of the paper fibres within the chilled packaging pads.
A close-up of the paper fibres inside the insulated padding.


Wool-based vs insulated cardboard liners

Regardless of your decision, you’ll need a cardboard outer to contain your insulative liner (and, ultimately, your products)!

At GWP Group, we can help you by supplying both the cardboard outer and sustainable inner lining. We have more than 30 years of experience in providing insulated packaging solutions and have a team of knowledgeable designers and engineers with a proven track record in minimising the environmental impact of your packaging.

So, if you need help assessing WoolCool vs insulated cardboard liners, please speak with one of our packaging experts.

Further reading

About the Author

Matt Dobson, GWP Group Marketing Manager

Matt Dobson

Marketing Manager | GWP Group

Matt has worked in the packaging industry for over 10 years, having joined GWP Group as Marketing Executive in 2012. [Read full bio]

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