Newsletter 06/2022 from Contance, The European Leather Association








Tanners take care of the water they borrow to produce leather




We are all aware that water is a scarce commodity and that good management is essential to ensure that it is used sustainably. The European tanning industry, which requires water to produce leather, takes this issue very seriously.
The tanning process borrows a certain volume of water and purifies it after use before returning it to nature. First the hides are rinsed and, once they are clean, free from mud, dung and hair, are tanned and dyed. It is necessary to optimize the use of water and guarantee its adequate treatment after each of these processes.


Thanks to the European tanning industry’s sound environmental practices, accredited by well-known audits and guidelines for progress in the treatment of wastewater, the quality of the water returned to the environment is constantly increasing, and is always at least compliant with the legal requirements for discharge to the environment.
In Europe, wastewater from tanneries is treated to very high standards. Its common effluent treatment plants (CETP) showcase technical excellence.
For instance, Italy, with CETP in the tannery clusters of Tuscany, Veneto or Campania, has become an international reference for the management and treatment of water in industrial districts of tanneries.
Another example is the Portuguese tanning district of Alcanena which separately collects the tanning baths from associated tanneries to recycle any residual tanning agents.

A Spanish example is the treatment plant Igualadina Depuració i Recuperació S.L. (IDR).  IDR (picture above) treats waters from 28 tanning companies of Igualada (associated with the Spanish Leather Association, ACEXPIEL, and the Leather Cluster Barcelona), as well as part of the local urban wastewater and that from other industries. At the end of the innovative biological system, it leaves the water in conditions comparable to domestic wastewaters, which are, in a following step, sent to a municipal wastewater plant, guaranteeing an adequate return to the environment.
Due to its unique characteristics, this CETP has been the subject of international recognition, as a case study in a seminar by UNEP, organised for advisors of Ministries of the Environment, and the focus of a report of by Global Water Intelligence, a reference for the water industry.

IPerfectly aligned with the United Nations' sixth Sustainable Development Goal – clean water and sanitation – European tanners are moving decisively towards higher sustainability standards.


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