28 February 2022
On the 25th September 2015 the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals contain issues that are all intertwined and working on achieving them is the task of a generation or even more. What is notable about the SDGs is that there is one directly linked to water and our human usage of this precious resource, underlining its importance. Something the leather industry has taken to heart for years in regards to sustainable water management.
SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Global water use and leather
In the 2019 UNESCO World Water Assessment report, it’s estimated that global water demand will exceed supply by 20-30% by 2050. Compared to other estimates, that is a positive. Already 22 countries suffer serious water stress, which has a major impact on population, industry and the environment. Parts of Europe are already reaching water stress levels above acceptable norms and over 90% of natural disasters are water related. If anything, these numbers prove that change is not optional but necessary.
According to UNIDO research, water consumption per kilogram of hide is 12 to 37 liters of water. To give you an idea of comparison, for 1 kilogram of cotton around 10,000 liters are used1. It illustrates that to produce the materials we use, we need water. Of global water consumers, agriculture is the biggest user with over 69%, followed by industry (19%) and households (12%). Leather production accounts for a tiny percentage, something close to 0.02%, of total water consumption. A lot has already been done to change the impact of leather production, but still the industry will use (and recycle) water – it is one of their main resources.
Sustainable water management in tanneries
Sustainable water management is not a new focus point for the leather industry, and since the ratification of the SDGs, it’s only upped its game. Obviously, leather production can’t do without water, but we can manage the resources better and more efficiently, and also lower the impact of pollution. A number of things have already been done, many of them for several decades already:
It needs to be said that technical innovations, like hide processors, compartmental drums and computerized monitoring systems make a lot of these innovations possible and beneficial to the process. Good housekeeping (energy efficient dryers, clean floors, no leaky valves, fleshing collection) can make another significant difference in the resource efficiency of a modern tannery.
Reducing the water footprint……………..to read the rest of this article, click on One 4 Leather – Water Management