Hans` perspective: Fundamental changes on the horizon for GDA

A view on the leather industry by Hans van Haarst, CEO Smit & Zoon Group

Impact of COVID-19 on the leather industry

Amidst the continuing COVID-19 crisis, raw material shortages, logistics constraints, and price increases throughout the chain, a fundamental change in our industry and market are taking place.

Glutardialdehyde (GDA) recently was put on the SVHC (substance of very high concern) list. On September 20th, the Reach Committee will decide on the proposal for restrictions of skin sensitizing substances submitted by France and Sweden, which – among others – proposes to restrict the concentration limit of Cr(VI) in leather from 3mg/kg to 1mg/kg.

A step towards a more sustainable future

Earlier this year the Chinese Government implemented legislation under which the handling of chromium-containing waste streams is heavily controlled and restricted. These changes will likely not have an immediate visible impact but certainly will give a strong signal to tanners around the world to prepare for a phase-out of both GDA and chromium tanning.

Our industry and value chains are complex and such fundamental change will take significant time. Processes will need to be changed, recipes and articles reformulated, approvals and certifications redone and consumers informed and educated. The time to start this process is now and chemical companies, including Royal Smit & Zoon are ready to take on this challenge.

New solutions available

Viable alternatives are available and likely a choice of new solutions will over time take the place of current GDA and Cr tanning. These solutions will need to balance article quality, specifications, and properties with economics and environmental footprint. In this context, it is of utmost importance that (new) suppliers provide solutions that are compliant with current and future laws and regulations (for instance ZDHC) are certified in the appropriate way, and come with transparent facts and figures (for instance LCA data).

Aim to create a socially and environmentally sustainable leather value chain

At Royal Smit & Zoon and its subsidiary Nera we are already working with more than 50 tanneries and a large number of brands around the world to commercialize leather articles based on our patented Zeology product and replace chromium and aldehyde in leather. This we do, true to our strategy, to create a socially and environmentally sustainable leather value chain. Please reach out to us to explore how we can help to get you ready for this fundamental change.

Chemicals & substances


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