"Can Leather Be Eco-Friendly"
September 5th, 2019 | Sustainability
There are a few things to consider when determining whether or not leather can be eco-friendly. One of the first thoughts that come to mind is the tanning process. This process is used in order to mummify the cowhide so that it won’t rot or harden. It’s become notorious for negatively impacting the environment by using tons of toxic chemicals in production, such as mineral salts, formaldehyde, and coal/tar derivatives. Even worse, the main environmental threat comes from the dumping of waste containing leftover chromium and other hazardous compounds. Research finds that tanning one ton of hide can result in as much as 20-80 cubic meters of wastewater containing chromium concentrations around 250 mg/L and sulfide concentrations of 500 mg/L. You don’t need to be a scientist to realize that this is bad news.
The second thought that comes to mind is the idea of leftover leather scraps. Many factories don’t utilize their leather scraps, and instead, dump those scraps into landfills. Statistics show that the fashion industry produces 92 million tons of waste each year. Can you guess how much of that is leather?
So finally, we try to reach a decision. Are there things that can be done to make leather more eco-friendly? The answer is an astounding YES. One big change that can be made is switching over to undyed or vegetable-tanned leathers. Companies like MuSkin have gone as far as to create their own mushroom leather!
Another way in which leather can be eco-friendly is when it comes in the form of upcycled leather—which is what we do at Opus Mind. Upcycled leather essentially recycles the leather scraps thrown out by factories, and gives it a second life. This not only keeps scraps from ending up in landfills but it also allows companies to avoid the need to tan new leather, thus resulting in fewer toxins released into the environment in the making of leather products.