Leather is one of the most durable and luxurious materials available, but it’s also among the least recyclable. Leather can be recycled by breaking it down into its constituent parts, but this process often results in products that are non-recyclable or require additional processing to become usable again. Leather is biodegradable if it has been treated with tannins or natural oils.
To help ensure that leather is sustainably sourced and processed, we’ve listed three ways that you can easily tell if your leather is biodegradable.
• If you have a look at the label on your shoe or other leather product, you will find information about how long it takes for the leather to decompose.
• Look for any mention of “100% Biodegradable” on your product packaging.
• A more scientific way to tell if a piece of leather is biodegradable would be to use an enzyme test kit that detects certain chemicals in materials such as polyurethane (PU) and formaldehyde.
Leather is made by tanning animal hides. To make leather, the skin of an animal must be tanned with a solution containing either vegetable or mineral salts and acids. The most common type of salt used in tanning leather is sodium sulfate, also known as alum.
The process can take between two weeks and six months depending on the quality of the hide being processed. Once the tanning process is complete, it is then allowed to dry naturally before being processed further.
Depending on how far along in the process you are, different chemicals are added to prevent decomposition such as natural oils (such as coconut oil), waxes (such as beeswax), resins (such as neatsfoot oil), and proteins (such as gelatin).
The most common type of leather is cowhide, which is made from the hide of cows and has been processed in a way that does not need to be tanned with chemicals or artificial colourings. It can also be used for making belts, purses, handbags, and shoes.
A less common type of leather is vegetable-tanned leather which is made from plant oils like coconut oil or palm oil. This process uses no chemicals or artificial colourings either but can only be produced in limited quantities because the raw materials are not always available. Vegetable-tanned leather may also produce a milder scent than its chemical-tanned counterpart.
The third kind of leather that’s biodegradable is chrome-free calfskin which is made from the skin of a cow without using chromium salts as part of the tanning process so it will decompose more quickly when exposed to water and air over time rather than requiring industrial waste disposal methods like burning or burying it in landfills.
The types of leather that are biodegradable include:
• Synthetic, which is made from materials such as polyurethane and acrylic
• Vegetable-tanned leather, which is made from tannins extracted from tree bark
• Other natural materials such as cellulose, wood fibres, animal skins, etc.
Piñatex vegan leather is one of the most innovative sustainable vegan leather made from palm leaves and pineapple fibre. The material has excellent features of steady capacity, water-resistance and is very suitable for mass production. Piñatex vegan leather can replace animal leather in numerous applications such as shoe uppers, furniture upholstery or bags to name a few because it is a naturally attractive soft texture eco-friendly product that also offers high wearability.
Faux leather is typically made from polyurethane, which is a petroleum-based material.
Real leather has been in use for thousands of years and its production involves using animals to process the consumers’ need to be affected by both types of materials, there are some differences.
Some animal products such as fur, hair, feathers, horns, or hooves are not considered real leather because they are not processed with chemicals or tanned with tanning agents like those used in the production of real leather.
When it comes to the chemicals used in faux leather production, however, they have been proven to be potentially harmful and cause allergic reactions that may result in skin irritation and rashes.
Vegan leather is a sustainable alternative to the real thing. It is made from natural plant-based materials like soy and wheat that are grown without pesticides or other chemicals.
As for vegan leather, it’s made from organic and natural materials like cotton and soy. It is also more sustainable than traditional leather because it takes less water, land, energy, and chemicals to produce.
The key thing about this type of leather is that it has a natural feel and does not contain any harmful chemicals or additives so it doesn’t cause allergic reactions or irritations on your skin.
Footwear is an item that most people don’t think about when it comes to sustainability. The truth is, a lot of the shoes you buy are made from materials that aren’t sustainable and could be harmful to the environment.
For example, leather shoes often contain toxic chemicals such as chromium sulfate which can cause cancer in humans and animals alike. Leather also contains substances called coumarins which can lead to liver toxicity. Other types of material such as PVC, polyurethane, and man-made materials may contain phthalates which have been linked to reproductive disorders in men and women.
Therefore, consumers need to be conscious of what they’re buying so they can find eco-friendly footwear options that are safe for their health and the environment!
Leather is biodegradable but only when it is processed in a specific way. So I of the processes that help leather become biodegradable are:
• It can be used to make fertilizer.
• It can be mixed with soil and made into compost.
• Leather scraps can be mixed with sawdust, coffee grounds, or other plant material to create mulch for garden beds.
The most common use for leather is as the covering on furniture such as sofas, chairs, ottomans, and dining room tables. Leather can also be used for other purposes such as clothing (leather shoes), bags (leather handbags), and luggage.
Although some tanning processes can produce high levels of harmful chemicals or carcinogens into the finished product, many types of leather are “vegetable-tanned” which produces little or no toxic byproducts during processing.
According to The International Leather Organisation, the leather industry is the second-largest polluter of water and one of the top ten most toxic industries.
Both leather accessories and clothing are made from materials that contain chemicals that will eventually biodegrade. These include petrochemical-based oils like petroleum, tar, rubber and other products containing plastic. The processing of these raw materials needed for the manufacture of both accessories and clothing is a source of pollution in many industries (such as steel mills or waste treatment centres).
It also contributes to:
• 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions
• 5% of all anthropogenic methane emissions
• 10% of all anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions
• 50% of air pollution comes from animal agriculture.
The leather industry is known to use the term biodegradable to describe its products.
However, this term is misleading because it implies that the materials can be decomposed into a non-toxic form in nature.
In reality, it takes thousands of years for most animal hides and leathers to decompose fully into a harmless substance.