By Hilaire Beerens
The LIFE Biopol project aims to provide answers to the most relevant issues of European policies for the leather industry: in particular the reduction of hazardous chemicals as well as their environmental footprint and impacts. The project focuses to enhance the circular economy making use of industrial (side-)streams from biological origin. In the project these industrial side-streams are used as basis to develop safe and eco-friendly biopolymers. The project then needs to prove that the new green chemicals have equal or better performances than traditional (petrochemical based) products through application on leather and reduce the pollution load of re-tanning effluents and water consumption. Finally in the project is the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) assessed in a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to assess that the products have a better performance compared to conventional leather making auxiliaries.
Since the completion of the plant – see previous newsletter – Smit & Zoon in The Netherlands and Italy have thoroughly tested the products on:
- haptic properties,
- physical properties,
- environmental characteristics.
Some of the goals were the replacement of part of the technology based on petrochemical raw materials in the ‘state of art’ re-tanning recipes and in addition getting a reduction of:
- COD values of bath
- Inorganic salts
- Chrome salts
- Environmental footprint via life cycle analysis (LCA)
Now we have come to the article development phase to produce different leather articles such as furniture upholstery, automotive upholstery, shoe upper and leather goods with our LIFE Biopol prototypes. The articles are comparable to our standard application processes, to achieve similar properties and consistent results to the leather compared to ‘State of Art’ petrochemical based products.
The Biopol development is a new era for Codyeco and Smit & Zoon, for a better climate, life and environmental aspect.
How many wake-up calls does the Leather industry and you need?
I am proud to be part of the leather industry, an industry that has been making a huge progress to manufacture a sustainable material, bringing comfort, luxury and joy to consumers. Personally, I feel less and less need to go into the defence when leather is debated in comparison to alternative materials
In 2013, Smit & zoon Wet-end introduced the Simplicity concept. Simplicity means: shorter tannery processes providing attractive, high-quality leather while saving water and energy. Although each tannery uses different processes, the Simplicity approach can be used in any tannery and tailored to its operating methods.
Education and promotion of leather
Leather Naturally is the global leather industry’s initiative to educate and promote leather to designers, brands and consumers. Leather Naturally as an association has doubled membership since last year and is eagerly welcoming new companies in the leather industry as a member.