22 December 2023
Italy’s national leather industry body UNIC has published the results of scientific tests that it says raise serious questions about Apple’s FineWoven material, writes Leatherbiz.
The consumer electronics company introduced FineWoven in September, describing it as “a durable twill textile”, made from 68% recycled content. It presented the material as an alternative to leather.
Apple said it would no longer use leather in products such as cases for its iPhones or straps for its watches and it insisted this was part of its efforts to improve its environmental performance.
Within days of this announcement, the International Council of Tanners (ICT) issued a statement to say it was deeply disappointed by Apple’s decision and added that the company had provided no evidence that FineWoven was a better environmental option than leather.
To test the claims, UNIC asked research services provider Ars Tinctoria to carry out analysis of two iPhone cases made from FineWoven, comparing their performance to that of an iPhone case made from leather supplied by Gruppo Dani.
In the tests, Ars Tinctoria found that FineWoven consisted of “a tight weave of polymeric fibres on a polymeric foam bed”. The analysis concluded that bio-based content in the FineWoven “was close to zero”, making the product “fully of fossil origin”.
In Martindale tests for abrasion resistance, the FineWoven case showed damage after 800 cycles and “complete deterioration” after 6,400. The leather case showed no damage after more than 50,000 cycles.
On presenting the results, UNIC said: “Leather is a natural, recyclable material of biological origin which, at the end of a product’s life, will return to nature relatively quickly.”
In contrast, it said that, in FineWoven, Apple had brought to market a fossil-based material. “It is a plastic material derived from hydrocarbons,” UNIC said. “It will remain in nature for thousands of years.”
It said that what Apple had done amounted to “building a marketing narrative that is not transparent and unfairly penalises the leather sector”.