‘I prefer recycled plastic and vegan materials’

by Egbert Dikkers

Brands, designers, influencers, NGOs, governments, companies and consumers (you and I) have a huge responsibility towards this century’s most important challenge, ‘creating a circular society’. But do we realize what is needed to create such a circular society?

Increasingly, I notice claims that try to seduce brands and consumers (you and I) to use ‘vegan materials’, or more specifically ‘use recycled plastics’ as base materials for a consumer item.

But how do we, consumers, know what is the best material for the production of a bag, a shoe, or a car seat? And can I trust the source trying to seduce me? Is the source interested in creating a better world? Is it mostly about increasing profit? Or is there another reason to bend marketing so that my consumption will change without necessarily creating a better world?

‘I prefer recycled plastic and vegan materials.’ What I like about this statement is the word ‘recycled’ and my judgment that vegan materials are linked with ‘animal welfare’. Of course, I want to support ‘recycled’ materials and products. And of course, I focus on ‘animal welfare’ who doesn’t?

But, why I do not like this statement is because it is only covering part of the picture and does not automatically drive our society forwards.

Brands increasingly do not have the arguments available to counter attacks from activist groups who for example, focus on banning animal products or leather specifically. I do not say that these brands have bad intentions, I do say that there is a risk that brands make regrettable choices, potentially damaging the relationship with their clientele and even threatening a circular society.

Smit & Zoon is offering support to society’s and your challenges:

  • We share our know-how through, for example, our Product Passport, our annual CSR report or position papers;
  • We will continue to offer innovations like Biopol, Optitans, and Zeology;
  • We jointly measure environmental impact and set up improvement programs;
  • We understand the fundamental challenges and focus on the total cost of production and ownership;
  • We connect our networks to leading industry initiatives like Leather Working Group and the ZDHC;
  • We advise consulting Leather Naturally to learn more about leather as a sustainable material.

To brands, designers and consumers, I would like to say ‘leather is made from the by-product of the food industry that is transformed by largely responsible and audited leather manufacturers, using ZDHC conformant chemistry, is made for consumer products that can be repaired, will last much longer than most alternative materials and ultimately can be recycled.’

I am proud of our performance in this respect. I will favor those brands that speak about a product or a material with passion, with pride, and from a deep understanding that leather is a preferred upcycled material fitting perfectly in a circular and responsible society.

Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts or challenges. We will be more than happy to support you!



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