Tanners, aware of the ecological issues involved in their work, are looking for – and finding – new methods to make their production more responsible. A look at the innovations emerging at every stage.
From the wet phase on
As a representative for Bonaudo pointed out, “Eco-responsibility must be practiced throughout the entire process.” And that means right from the beamhouse stage. “Our new plants have reduced our water consumption by 50%,”notes this Italian professional.
A colleague at Montebello, honoured with a gold medal from the very demanding Leather Working Group, explains that the company has changed its unhairing method to better manage hair waste.
The TMM tannery, also LWG certified, has installed a high-performance wastewater treatment plant, allowing it to treat up to 1,200 cubic metres a day, using physico-chemical, biological or tertiary methods. “Some 30% of the water we consume is recycled in our production circuit.
The remaining 70% can be discharged without any pollution risk,”says the company’s representative. To preserve the raw skins, the tanner uses a closed-loop brine-curing system rather than solid sodium chloride, thus reducing salt use by 50%. “The brine penetrates the skin well, fixing only the necessary amount of salt,”explained the leather technician.
“We are working with university research labs to find other ways of stopping putrefaction that are even cleaner and more effective, such as using enzymes for example.”
The TMM tannery preserves skins with brine
Leather | Full grain leather | TMM, France| Ref : P46 – OASIS Metal Free |Full hide | See more
New tannings, and a different kind of currying
Little by little, metal-free and chromium-free tanning methods are being perfected, so that today many tanners have articles produced this way in their catalogues. “Often, metal-free items are slightly stiff. We can achieve greater suppleness through oils and mechanical operations during stuffing,” says Ckd Cetinkaya.
A supple chrome free lamb leather from Ckd Cetinkaya
Leather | Full grain leather | CETINKAYA, Turkey| Ref : FD19327 – CHROME FREE STRECH NAPPA |Full hide | See more
But tanners are also working hard on the currying phase to finalize their metal-free lines and propose genuinely successful and high-performance products.
“We developed a special chrome-free finish with a brushed and patinated effect,” says an expert at the Kara Group.
Chrome free bovine with special finishing and crocodile embossing from Kara Group
“Water-based finishings, which are more environmentally friendly, have some drawbacks, particularly in terms of aspect, thickness and weight, which we have managed to offset by using new resins,”says a technician from Richard.
Richard practises water finishing
A representative from Inter Leather also notes that, “Our double-face articles, which are finished on both sides, are ultimately less expensive, consume less energy and require fewer operations, as well as no linings. As a result, they are also more responsible articles.”
A double-face product from Inter Leather
Leather | Full grain leather | Inter Leather, Spain | Ref : Nuclio Doble – Nuclio Doble |Half hide | See more
“Normally we use thick pigments to hide defects,”says a representative from Colombier. “But today we offer a transfer with an extra-fine nano film that hides surface imperfections, while also requiring less time, chemicals and energy, especially in drying, and providing a high-level of protection against scratches.”
Lamb leather with extra fine film transfer from Colombier
The Tanneries Roux, awarded LWG certification in December 2018, is multiplying its sampling throughout the tanning process so they can apply certain treatments only to the skins that justify them. They cut all the scrap as they go, so only those parts of the skins that can actually be used are subjected to finishings, using the strictly necessary amount of liquid. “Fighting waste is also a responsible approach today,“stated a professional from this French leather institution.
Anti-waste management throughout the tanning process at Tanneries Roux
Leather | Full grain leather | Tanneries Roux, France | Ref : CESAR – Veau César |Half hide | See more
A better way to organise work
How work is organised within a factory can also contribute to more responsible production. For example, at Sovos Grosjean, the company says it “plans schedules according to the workload. Starting up the machines is very energy-intensive, so we prefer to prolong certain working hours and compensate with days off, which makes our team happy. And this way, we save 15% on electricity.
A new working schedule at Sovos Grosjean contributes to more responsible production.
“The same reasoning holds true at San Martin, which has just moved into a brand-new facility. “Our new dryer machines consume less energy,”says the owner.
Even in the form of scrap, leather retains interesting properties. So many exhibitors have had the idea of recuperating this waste and using it to make new materials.
South Korea’s Atko Planning manufactures the same type of material, which it recommends for both leather goods and footwear decoration, but does not recommend for belts because it is “not as strong as genuine leather.” The company has also succeeded in extruding a yarn made from scrap leather mixed with polyester or polyamide. The yarn is too thick to be woven, but can be used for technical knits, such as those found in sneakers.
A knit made of recycled leather yarn from Akto Planning
An idea is found at Timbrados Rubio, where the process results in a sheet made up of 80% scrap leather which is configured into rolls.
Recycled leather items from Timbrados Rubio
Creatio Innovacio projects leather particles on a coated canvas to create a hybrid material.
Leather particles projected onto a coated canvas by FC Creatio Innovacio
Leather | Full grain leather | FC CREACIO I INNOVACIO SL, Spain | Ref : NO LEATHER WASTE PV AWARDS AW2021 – NO LEATHER WASTE |Half hide | See more
Lastly, Eureka, a company specialised in split leathers, has acquired a film transfer machine to launch a new service to enhance split lamb by laminating them with or without dyeing. “Until now, this flesh split, which belongs to our clients, has been stored or lost,”says a manager. “And because of the splitting process, the feel is nice and downy.”
Lamb crust resulting from splitting, enhanced through a transfer process by Eureka
Leather | Flesh Split| EUREKA SARL, France | Ref : SERP – SERP |Full hide | See more
Leather | Flesh Split| EUREKA SARL, France | Ref : ZEUS – ZEUS |Full hide | See more