Can leather consumer products be biodegradable?

Netherlands
Published:  02 March, 2021

With consumers and regulators increasingly looking for more sustainable leather, the subject of biodegradability has become more urgent. After all, sustainability is not only a matter of durability or clean production; it’s also about what happens to the product at the end of the lifecycle.

By nature, leather is a perfectly biodegradable matter. Processing it in order to make it suitable for use in end products, such as shoes and leather goods or upholstery, influences leather’s compostability and its impact on the environment. Depending on the tanning technologies used, the environmental impact differs.

Understanding how this works, and what substances leather breaks into after usage, is important information for consumers who want to make purchases that fit their environmental preferences. Relevant test results are useful for consumers to understand the impact their product will have at the end-of-life stage.

In order to measure the impact at the end of the lifecycle, multiple measurements can be made. For instance, it could be determined how well each separate element biodegrades (the leather and the chemicals) or it could be looked at as a whole material. There is, however, a major distinction between the testing of the separate chemical substances and whole-material testing. Practitioners in the leather industry should be familiar with the jargon used, the end-of-life scenarios, and with the basic testing that is used to simulate the different end-of-life environments. A key advancement in the future success of leather will depend upon the development of a balance between long-lived leathers and ecologically benign short-lived leathers. Therefore, Nera is sharing all of its knowledge on this subject:

WATCH THE ONLINE MASTERCLASS
We have hosted a free online Masterclass on the Biodegradability of Leather recently. Speakers included Hans van Haarst, CEO of Smit & Zoon, Iris van Wanrooij, Program Manager Corporate Social Responsibility at Emma Safety Shoes and Wouter Hendriksen, R&D Manager at Nera. You can watch the recorded Masterclass here.

DEEP DIVE INTO THE BIODEGRADABILITY OF LEATHER
For those willing to take an in-depth technical approach to the subject, there is a free whitepaper available on the subject of leather and biodegradability, brought to you by Nera’s experts. Download the whitepaper here for free and read up on the latest insights into creating sustainable leather, in terms of biodegradability.

CONTACT
If your appetite for knowledge on leather and its biodegradability is not yet satisfied by the Masterclass and the whitepaper, please contact us and we will be happy to talk about it some more: Wouter.hendriksen@smitzoon.com

*This article is an advertorial provided by Smit & Zoon.