Italy’s national tanning industry association UNIC has issued a statement in defence of the leather cluster at Solofra, in the south of the country, reports Leatherbiz.
Not for the first time, tanners operating in and around Solofra have come in for criticism from political groups in recent weeks because of pollution in the Sarno river, which flows into the Bay of Naples near Pompei.
Solofra’s tanners operate about 35 kilometres to the east, close to the Solofrana river, which flows into the Sarno. The leather cluster comprises 150 companies, which employ a combined total of 2,000 people and, together, generate a turnover of €500 million per year, with 75% of this revenue coming from export markets.
Responding on their behalf, UNIC said: “These are companies that are synonymous in the international leather sector with reliability and quality. They operate successfully in the domestic market, in Europe, in the Middle East and in the US, supplying some of the fashion sector’s most important brands.”
UNIC went on to say that the water quality in the Sarno has been poor “for decades” and that there have already been a number of parliamentary enquiries about it, without any solution ever resulting from them.
It said no one wanted a definitive solution to the problem more than the Solofra tanners, for environmental, ethical and economic reasons. It’s the tanners, UNIC added, who have been, once again, unfairly singled out as “scapegoats” for a situation that the leather industry has not caused.
In the statement, UNIC said the high levels of pollution in the Sarno are the result of inadequate domestic sewer networks in the area, and a lack of collection and purification systems downstream of the tanning cluster.
It added: “The truth is that, far from being the cause of this problem, the Solofra cluster is one of the few organisations in the area that has a wastewater treatment system in place. Moreover, that system has two wastewater treatment plants that work together, one in Solofra and one in Mercato San Severino, providing high levels of environmental protection.”
Finally, UNIC said Solofra’s tanners, tired of these “baseless attacks” have asked their national body to urge Italy’s environment ministry and the regional government in Campania to step up measures to bring to an end any “illicit conduct” that is causing pollution. It insisted the cluster’s leather manufacturers will offer the greatest possible support to any such measures. The tanners want these controls to be “precise and strict” to put beyond any doubt that they are not the cause of the problem.