20 December 2022
Our friends at Leather Naturally have an excellent series of short articles summarising key facts about leather and what makes it such a unique material. In one of these, they ask the question: “Is leather environmentally friendly?” Unsurprisingly, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues they address in their brief (739 words) overview:
It’s no secret that leather has always required chemical processing to achieve its wide range of unique properties. But what’s less known is that a combination of legal and voluntary regulations ensure that today’s industry is strictly controlled.
Renewable, long-lasting and repairable. Check, check, check. As a by-product of the meat industry, if hides weren’t used for leather they would be put into landfill which is in itself an environmental risk.
Even at the end of a long useful life, leather can be shredded and used in all kinds of applications from footwear and punch bags to upholstery and decorative wall coverings. And work is ongoing to find innovative new ways to recycle it.
As an organic material, leather naturally biodegrades in the ground to complete its lifecycle without a trace. This will take between 10-15 years in a landfill site. Compare that with a piece of PVC which would take over 500 years to break down!
What about ‘faux leather’?
‘Faux leather’, ‘vegan leather’, ‘PU leather’, ‘synthetic leather’, ‘artificial leather’… most include plastic elements derived from oil such as polyester, nylon or PVC – none of which come from renewable sources, and none of which are biodegradable.
The bottom line is that leather is based on a by-product of another industry which would otherwise be thrown away. It is also renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. What synthetic material can honestly compete with that?