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LANXESS - Turning waste into money
Véronique Saunier | 13 December 2017

Using leather shavings to produce leather chemicals? This is possible thanks to LANXESS’ innovative “ReeL” system which was one of the highlights of the All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE ) 2017 in Shanghai.

The Leather business unit at LANXESS developed this pilot facility in cooperation with the German research institute INVITE, with the aim of producing re-tanning agents from collagen-rich byproducts that accumulate during leather-making and from organic biomass. The plant features a modular design and is intended for use directly in situ at tanneries. The project that cost 2.5 million euros is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

A medium-sized tannery produces several metric tons of shavings a day. Using a production facility leased from LANXESS, a tannery can produce enough X-Biomer re-tanning agents to meet its needs – directly on site. The unit fits in a 20 feet container and can produce a batch of X-Biomer every four hours. The byproducts used are recycled without leaving any residues which means no waste or emissions are generated during production. One ton of shaving can produce three tons of Biomer liquid, according to LanXESS’ Vice President of Business Unit Leather, Dr. Dietrich Tegtmeyer, who is managing the project. “The goal is to be able to offer X-Biomer to the tanner at a cost comparable to that of procuring commercially available X-Biomer re-tanning agents,” Tegtmeyer says. Typically, up to 40 per cent of production cost is spent on logistics including transportation and handling of waste.  According to Tegtmeyer the reduction of logistics should offset the higher production costs.

This completely new business concept, whereby LanXESS gets royalties based on the quantity of chemicals produced by the tannery, attracted a lot of attention at ACLE.” Each case will be a different business case,” assures Tegtmeyer. “We are here to start looking for customers.”