14 January 2022

Mike Redwood addresses the false claims of vegan materials, which often rely on the use of fossil fuel-based materials, and why leather should be able to stand alone with its many benefits.


Innovation is important for leather. With new processing options such as olive tanned leather and Zeolite, new ideas have been introduced into leathermaking but investment in competitive materials – biobased and synthetic – has been outstripping anything the leather industry has spent.

In her editorial letter in a recent issue of How to Spend It magazine, Jo Ellison introduced an article on alternative “milks” by writing: “Have you converted to the new plant-based milk drinks yet? As I write, I am enjoying a mug of coffee and considering that I may be one of the last remaining resistants in the world (I’m full-cream all the way).

“But one of the main reasons I’ve stayed a naysayer on the oat and nut varieties are the conflicting reports on how much environmental good they do. Almond milk seems about as ecologically damaging as can be imagined when you consider the vast supplies of water required to industrialise the product, while oat milk is frequently stuffed full of glucose when it is commercially produced.”

Until last year’s FILK research report on the biobased materials attacking leather, the view was similar. We could get no information on their carbon, water and energy footprints, only hype, as they were protecting IP, or awaiting patents. The FILK study was damning – many are loaded with the same fossil-based polymers as synthetic materials so they could meet the minimum physical properties for targeted end uses.

While synthetics manufacturing is well understood, this was new knowledge about biobased materials. They are still investing and will improve at some stage, but buyers need to apply scientific scepticism to claims about these materials being fully natural and only based on biomaterials. In this, the FILK report has been more useful than I had expected at publication.

Don’t believe the hype…….to read the rest of this comment by Dr Michel Redwood, click on ILM – False Claims by Alternative Materials

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