LET’S BE CLEAR ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY OF REAL ELATHER-LESSON NUMBER 3

THE TANNING
The procedure to change raw hides into finished leathers boasts
millenary traditions. In fact, leather has always been one of the most
widely used materials by man for the manufacture of footwear, clothing,
carpets and sofas.
The tanning industry is essentially concerned with the transformation of
waste from the meat and/or milk industry into an industrial product
suitable for use in the production of leather goods.
Regarding the different types of tanning methods, a study by German
authors (B. Trommer, HJ Keller, comparison of tanning methods from an
ecological viewpoint) in which the four types of tanning are compared
(conventional chrome tanning, wet-white chronograph with
glutaraldehyde and synthetic tannings, combined glutaraldehyde and
chromium and vegetable tanning with mimosa) by applying the LCA (Life
Cycle Assessment) method to the tanning process alone, it highlights
that chrome tanning is to be preferred considering all aspects.
The study shows that the phases that most contribute to water
pollution/toxicity are those following the tanning itself (retanning,
fattening, dyeing, etc.) and it was considerably greater for the alternative
designs examined. Actually, the only disadvantage found for
conventional chrome tanning was, as was obvious, the presence of
chromium in sewage sludge with the consequent difficulties for disposal.
This negative aspect however has already been overcome in the Italian
tanning poles thanks to important consortium purifiers.
The adoption of clean technologies, the wider use of more
environmentally friendly chemical products, the use of machinery with a
higher energy efficiency, have made it possible to achieve high levels of
environmental efficiency in production cycles.

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