Smit & Zoon to use Beet Pulp as an alternative to chemical ingredients in leather production

Smit & Zoon to use Beet Pulp as an alternative to chemical ingredients in leather production

Thanks to research by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research in close collaboration with Smit & Zoon, the production of leather can become more sustainable. The research has shown that pectins from sugar beet pulp are suitable as bio-based ingredients in the production of leather.

The outcome was part of broader research around replacing petroleum-based ingredients with bio-based alternatives, helping to make the chemical industry more sustainable, reducing CO2 emissions from production and reducing non-degradable and toxic substances.

The Leather Supply Chain

The pectins serve as functional substitutes for non-degradable polymers in the wet production process at the end of leather production. For example, they can influence the colour intensity. Smit & Zoon sees this as an important extra step in our transition to a more sustainable production process. It is part of our ongoing sustainability mission. Our goal is to be one of the leading companies towards a more sustainable supply chain in leather. We believe that on that road, even a drop makes a difference.


Cosun, a supplier and processor of beet pulp, also finds it an interesting development. “This is clearly a win-win situation; we process our residual stream of beet pulp to the highest possible quality and the chemical industry has a sustainable solution,” says Harry Raaijmakers, who is responsible for chemical expertise within Cosun R&D.

“Replacing petrochemical raw materials with biobased alternatives is not only important for CO2 reduction, but also for persistence: biobased alternatives are biodegradable and less toxic”, explains Raaijmakers.

Sustainable industry

Jacco van Haveren, programme manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research: “This is a good example of the development of new bio-based ingredients. These are crucial to making the chemical industry more sustainable because they will result in less CO2 emissions and more biodegradable products in the long term than replacing one-to-one existing chemical ingredients with a bio-based alternative. Moreover, the completely new ingredients contribute to the reduction of environmental and health risks, because there is no longer any exposure to certain chemicals.”

More about the project

The research project that led to the beet pulp findings is part of TKI-AF (Topconsortia voor Kennis en Innovatie (TKI) – Agri & food). Smit & Zoon has been a participator since the beginning of 2018. It is a Dutch government co-financed project with a consortium consisting of 4 public-private partners including Smit & Zoon, Cosun, Dalli-De Klok and Wageningen University & Research. This is the first time in Smit’s history that we are running such a project.

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