The Biodegradability of the Leather

8 October 2020

Animal skin is a natural product that the leather industry transforms into stable material for the manufacture of clothing, upholstery, footwear, among other goods. Once tanned and retanned, the leather becomes more resistant to environmental degradation depending on the products used.

What is biodegradable?

The adjective biodegradable qualifies those substances that can be degraded by the action of a biological agent, such as certain animals, fungi and bacteria that can achieve the decomposition of these types of materials.

When is a product biodegradable?

We refer to a product or material biodegradable when it has the ability to decompose naturally and ecologically in a relatively short period of time, non-polluting the environment and becoming compost for the earth.

Currently, the leather sector is looking for metal-free (chrome / aluminum) tanning leather substances and with a good biodegradability to reduce or eliminate the polluting effects. Processes in which the consumption of water, electricity and time is reduced are also sought. Poor management of resources and lack of equipment (treatment plants) are the cause of the contamination of natural areas.

In recent years, meat industry has increased the demand for these metal-free substances, especially in developing countries. Even so, leather has diminished its use to give way to other materials. One of these materials is "synthetic leather" or "vegan leather", which increases its value in the market due to its price and because it is considered animal friendly, since it is a no animal product. However, "vegan skin" is usually made from fabrics, plastics and PVC resins, all of them with low biodegradability, which generates a long-lasting residue in time and in the environment.

At Quimser we care about finding alternatives and solutions to help the future of the sector through actions such as:

- Eliminating the use of mineral salts (chromium / aluminum)

- Economising the water used

- Waste water with low environmental impact

- Reducing time processes (electricity consumption)

- Obtaining leathers highly biodegradable

- Using environmentally friendly chemicals

For this reason, we have developed SERTAN WT: a raw material that is more respectful of the environment with wastewater that does not generate problems. The aim is to respond to the aforementioned points and provide solutions for a world that is increasingly demanding about the impact that processes and products generate on the environtment.

Biodegradability test # 1

We sample four tanned and retanned sheep skins with different processes and products to determine the impact they generate on the environment.

1. Crust tanned with chrome and retanned with synthetics

2. Crust tanned with vegetable extract and aldehyde. Retanning with synthetics extract

3. Crust tanned with SERTAN WT and retanned with vegetable extract

4. Wet white dry tanned with SERTAN WT

We introduced the skins in a natural compound on July 8, 2020 in order to observe the time it took to degrade. On August 25, 2020, we checked the condition of the leathers and monitored their condition.

These are the conclusions:

The leather tanned with SERTAN WT in optimal composting conditions (temperature and humidity), are highly biodegradable. In just fifty days the skin has been decomposed. Therefore, we can affirm that the environmental impact of leather tanned with SERTAN WT is much lower than that of leather tanned with mineral salts or synthetic products (derived from petroleum).



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