Cactus leather. Apple leather. Coffee shoe foam.
It seems like every other week, there is a new story praising the latest material that might be a revolutionary new alternative to some existing material, such as plastic or leather, write Dr. Ashley Holding and Paula Lorenz on The Circular Laboratory
There is a pattern that connects many of these innovations: they incorporate plants or food (waste) in their composition. These materials often go through a short-lived, but very effective hype by the media, that makes readers celebrate a new sustainable milestone.
But there is often a great disconnect between appearances and how sustainable, on balance, these materials actually are. A key feature of these materials is in the amount of information that the producers choose to omit. Marketing materials are carefully crafted to lead the consumer down a journey to make them believe the product is solving a problem like climate change, or plastic waste, without giving much detail on exactly how. Often a product might say it is “made from” some kind of natural material, even if what it is “made from” only makes up a small fraction of the product.
The crux is in the information imbalance between producers and the larger public, as well as a certain naiveté when it comes to believing marketing claims, especially when they address something as emotionally-laden as our planet and environment. We want to believe that something is good when it addresses a good cause. Unfortunately, the full picture is a lot more complex, and sometimes things do sound too good to be true. To illustrate the problem, we’ve picked out a couple of examples.
Vegan Leathers That Are Hybrids of Plastics and Natural Materials….click on The Circular Laboratory - Marketing Hype to read the rest of this well-reasoned analysis.