2 February 2024

One 4Leather - The Consequence of Displacing Automotive Leather

With the recent EU vote for anti-greenwashing laws by an overwhelming majority, which will ban the use of environmentally friendly claims without proof, it will change how products are labelled, prevent unfounded durability claims, and stop companies trying to kid on that products made with plastic are ok because trees were planted to offset the carbon.

What does this mean for automotive leather? Companies that make “vegan leather” will be required by law to stop making unsubstantiated claims about the green credentials of these materials. As reported by the Filk Institute, none of the leather alternative materials they tested perform anything like genuine leather regarding durability, cracking strength and tear resistance, and none of the tested substitutes could truly be called an “alternative” for leather.

At the same time these new laws are coming into place, the leather industry is working hard to produce accurate Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and to understand the impact leather has on the planet. More is being understood about Consequential LCA and system expansion with avoided processes and products. Hides are a by-product of the meat and dairy industry, and processing them into automotive leather displaces the need to create alternative “vegan-leather” materials.

The consequence of making “vegan leather” is we are creating a new material that has a high percentage of plastic included. No matter whether it’s virgin plastic or recycled, the impact on the planet from producing plastic is significant. These alternative leather materials are shown to have limited performance and, therefore, a reduced life span. These composite materials can’t be recycled and will inevitably end up in landfill, where it will take hundreds of years to decompose and release toxins and greenhouse gases into our land and oceans.

Let’s not forget the consequence when we displace automotive leather with a product that can be avoided; the cattle hides left over from the meat and dairy industry will also need to be disposed of, releasing millions of tonnes of additional and unnecessary CO2e, creating a double whammy for the environment.

Surely, this must raise questions as to why we would create new material to displace genuine leather that we want to perform like leather but is ultimately bad for the planet when there is a natural by-product from other industries that we can upcycle into high-performing genuine automotive leather.

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