Agra-wool Natural Floral Foam
While environmentally conscious ﬂorists continue to phase out unsustainable plastic ﬂoral foam, a new product has emerged as a potential alternative. This article considers its environmental credentials and ﬂoral design possibilities compared to traditional green foam.
Earlier this year Dutch company released a new product made from rockwool and sold as “100% Natural Floral Foam”. This rockwool is a mineral ﬁbre made from 97% powdered basalt rock spun into ﬁbres at high heat with the addition of a binding agent made from sugar.
Professor Ian Rae, Honorary Professorial Fellow from the School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne, sees a great beneﬁt in moving away from a synthetic petrochemical product to a naturally occurring mineral-based material because at the end of its useful life, the product is simply adding to what already exists in soil.
“This is a non-toxic, environmentally benign material made from natural materials,” says Professor Rae. “Once the binding agent breaks down, most likely as function of biodegradation, the product will become rock dust and simply add to the soil”.
Professor Rae says that if the material escaped into the natural environment through wastewater or incorrect disposal, it would not pose an ingestion risk to animals in the same way as plastic. A study by RMIT’s Ecotoxicology Group published in Science of the Total Environment last year found that traditional green plastic foam can be ingested by a range of freshwater and marine animals and affect their health.
From a handling perspective, Professor Rae says the main risk to health is through inhaling the powdered rock, should the ﬁbres break down or become degraded to produce dust. He recommends cutting the foam rather than sawing it to avoid creating smaller particles.
According to the manufacturers, the product does not crumble or leave microﬁbres in the water like regular foam. Special protective gear is not required under normal industry use, PPE only necessary when cutting and sawing large industrial quantities. Skin irritation is a possibility in sensitive individuals and users are advised to rinse with water should this occur.
With regards to disposal, the material is a non-toxic addition to landﬁll, and small amounts of the material can be added to compost or green waste.
Melbourne Florist and Certiﬁcate III Educator Liz Dziedzic, says that the National Training Package for ﬂoristry requires ﬂoral foam for 11 items including wreaths, posy boxes and ﬂoral foam bouquet holders.
“A lot of the items in Construct Base Medium can be made with out the use of ﬂoral foam but there are a deﬁnitely a few that would be difficult to reproduce without an alternative,” says Liz. Liz tried a sample of the Natural Floral Foam and believes that overall the product is a “fantastic alternative to plastic ﬂoral foam”. “I think this product would be great for casket sprays and wreaths or anything that requires stability that couldn’t be achieved with another base medium such as sticks or chicken wire,” she said. “I found this material relatively easy to use. It is not absolutely the same as ﬂoral foam in terms of stability, but it does a very good job. Placing stems into the material needed a little more care than regular ﬂoral foam. I found that you really needed to be aware of your placement on the brick as I found once an area got crowded it kind of collapsed a bit, not enough to ruin the design but just something to keep in mind.”
Agrawool states on their website that the product “won’t meet everyone’s wishes”, and wholesaling at around $2.50 per block, it is four times the price of plastic foam.
While Liz thinks this product may be too expensive for TAFE budgets given the current training package, she believes that with changes to the curriculum, eliminating plastic ﬂoral foam is a possibility. This would involve replacing some foam-based designs with hand-tied constructions, using alternative base mediums, and using a product like Natural Floral Foam for a few remaining designs.
With sustainability a hot topic in the world of ﬂoristry, time will tell if the broader commercial world ﬁnds Natural Floral Foam a possible replacement for traditional foam in business and design.
Designed for Re-use
100% Natural Flower Foam by Agra-wool is reusable for design, seeds, and cuttings. #letitgrow
You could find more information about re-using the Agra-Wool Natural Floral Foam on the Moné Designs website.