The tannery world is under the constant and increasing attack of ecologists and environmentalists who believe that tanning causes pollution and does not respect animals. But are these beliefs really true?
Many of them are “fake news”, which damages not only the supply chain but also leather companies and those who work for them. Basing ourselves on scientific and reliable sources, we have tried to prove that the most common ideas are wrong.
Producing leather is a type of circular economy
TRUE. By using a food industry by-product, European leather producers convert waste into renewable material. The production of leather supplies a sustainable economic value and, in turn, generates new by-products that stimulate growth in other sectors.
To obtain leather you have to kill animals
FALSE. The manager of UK Leather, Kerry Senior, recently intervened on this matter after some imprecisions appeared in a BBC service. The leather used by tanneries comes from animals that have been slaughtered for their meat. Cows, pigs, sheep and goats are bred mainly for their meat.
But what happens to the parts that are not eaten?
These so-called “by-products” are very useful and can be transformed into new products or specific ingredients. This means that animals are not killed for their hides, rather it is the waste coming from animal reared for food purposes that is used.
Leather comes from animals that have been exploited
FALSE. The better the living conditions of the animal, the higher the quality of its leather. Damage caused by mites and lice and contamination from excrement are the main causes of leather degradation. Furthermore, better transport and slaughter conditions reduce scratches, stains and scars.
Artificial leather lasts longer
FALSE. Leather products last longer than products made from synthetic materials. This is fundamentally important for sustainability, because in this manner the wasteful short-term use of resources can be avoided.
In the case of real leather articles, it is usually never the leather but the zips and threads, namely the
repairable elements, that degenerate first, an enormous advantage for resource consumption. Instead, synthetic materials detach and crumble, so they are more subject to wear and have a shorter life.
The tanning process produces a lot of waste
FALSE. The majority of tanneries all over the world use suitable equipment and implement procedures or managing waste so as to produce top quality leather.
The leather that comes from these tanneries can be legitimately defined as sustainable, because it comes from a renewable biological source and is produced safely and without any undue waste.
Vegan leather has the same characteristics
FALSE. “Vegan leather” is not leather, it always has a vegetable base. It is often made from composite microfibers of polyvinylchloride (PVC), polyurethane(PU) and polymer textile fibres or other petrol-based materials. More simply: plastic. There is, as such, a clear difference between authentic leather and the alternatives. Real leather is easy to clean, is breathable,
resistant and long-lasting. It is also compostable, turning into compost in just a few weeks. Only 1% remains, the surface treatment, which is the current challenge being faced to make leather a 100% biodegradable material.