Newsletter 6/2020 from Cotance, The European Leather Association
Original ways to use post-consumer leather
|The leather value chain is a perfect example for the famous 3 Rs of the waste hierarchy: Reduce - Reuse – Recycle.
Indeed, tanners reduce biological waste from the meat sector, reusing the animal’s hides and skins for creating a new material, through their recycling into leather.
While this is true, there is still more that can be achieved through the circularity of leather and its sustainability.
What other “Rs” does leather bring to address the challenges of the 21st century?
Leather articles can be repaired if they break! This feature is unique, something that substitute materials cannot offer. Think of how often one can re-sole shoes or repair the leather strap of your favourite leather bag, etc.
Although leather is designed for durability, it does not mean you cannot be in a mood for a change. Leather’s longevity allows leather articles to have a second or even a third life. Second-hand shops do good business with vintage leather articles, as they become trendy, generation after generation.
Some leather articles are may be too small or no longer suitable for a new use. But even when leather is close to its end-of-life, useful applications can be found. For instance, shredded leather has been used and is still being used as a bedding in horse riding arenas; Either alone or in combination with wood or wood and paper residues, it cushions the impact of hooves on the ground.
Certain leather articles need to be replaced from time to time. This happens with office furniture or train and airplane seating or similar goods. Major companies have found creative ways to recover and reuse the leather from seating and produce other leather articles. An example is Amtrak, the US train company which has decided to turn their leather seating into appealing backpacks.
What happens at the very end of the lifecycle of leather? Well, leather is a natural material and with time and the appropriate environmental conditions, it will biodegrade. Leather is not like plastic that ends up as microparticles in our oceans and eventually enters the food chain. If we can still find leather in archaeological findings it is because the circumstances and conditions (temperature, relative humidity, light, exposure to air, absorption of natural preserving substances, etc.) were favourable for its preservation.
Picture of archelogical finding taken from Djed Medu's blog.
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