Leather International: The 32nd IULTCS congress takes place in Istanbul this May. What can delegates expect to see and hear during the technical programme at the congress? Are there any new items?

VC: First of all I would like to point out that there is a great interest in the upcoming congress. More than 200 scientific works have been submitted. These are categorised in several sections such as "Innovation", "Future of Tanning Industry", "Machinery", and so on. There are so many interesting papers that the scientific committee has had difficulty to organise sessions in a balanced way. One of the most interesting scientific aspects of this congress is that we received a number of innovative abstracts on machinery. This is not common. I should also mention that there is good research being presented on different problems of the leather industry and I hope the papers will suggest how to solve them; for example Cr(VI), general waste problems, salinity, carbon footprint (CF) measurement techniques, etc.

Leather International: What is the IULTCS doing to address the fact that the modern tanning industry that has shifted to Asia, Latin America and Africa away from traditional markets in Europe and North America. Does the IULTCS truly represent the new world order in the tanning industry?

VC: A core function of the IULTCS is to facilitate the advance of science. In addition to the biennial World Congress, the IULTCS has supported the organisation of regional conferences. More specifically, Latin American and Asian regional conferences are now more common and held in interim years when no World Congress is planned. This is to encourage and support regional scientific and technical developments. 2012 was an important year when two IULTCS regional conferences were organised – one in Montevideo and one in Taipei. Both were very successful and proved how the development of leather science has progressed in these regions. Actually knowledge is more open and accessible today and tanning technology moves readily as well. For me, leather science and technology is becoming more global – we all are in the same boat – and the IULTCS is playing a key role in helping modernise the industry.
A significant challenge today, is the competition of leather versus synthetics. This is much more significant than several years ago. So the globalisation of knowledge about leathers’ properties is more important than before. IULTCS is aware of this fact and our members are very active in the support of leather all over the world. The IULTCS also took an active role in the formation of GLCC (Global Leather Co-ordinating Committee). This demonstrates how the IULTCS is adapting its global role to the changing needs of the industry.
Membership is also increasing. Over the last four years Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ecuador, Portugal, and New Zealand have all joined the IULTCS.

Leather International: What are the greatest scientific challenges facing the tanning industry? What can the IULTCS do to help tanners resolve the challenges?

VC: The tanning industry is facing increased environmental controls and limits on substances used in processing. The presence of restricted chemicals in leather produced by the tanning industry creates an impasse when requested from the brands. The problem is to be able to analyse correctly for listed substances in the leather. However, we hear every day of a problem faced by a garment, shoe or upholstery leather producer complaining that although they did not use such chemicals, a laboratory found the restricted substances in their products. This can be due to possible false positive analysis errors arising from the fact that they are using in-house methods not suitable for leather material. IULTCS is the only global organisation who manages the development of standard leather specific analytical methods. The most important role of the IULTCS Testing Commissions is to improve existing methods, adapting most advanced techniques, and developing new methods involving the latest scientific innovations. Therefore advances in chemistry, instrument analysis or developments in any other discipline have to be followed by the Union. Through its commissions these methods are developed and published and I think that fundamental research, development, and global cooperation are very important in this process. The IULTCS conferences are important platforms where ideas and data on this subject are presented.
Another very important and challenging area is obviously environmental problems. IULTCS work groups, such as the Environmental Commission (IUE) collects data, discusses the latest scientific developments or improvements regarding cleaner technologies and publishes documents and reports accordingly. Again, IULTCS scientific organisations create an important avenue to receive and disseminate the latest developments. The IULTCS has also formed a relatively new research work group (IUR) as a result of 2006 Istanbul Euro Congress. This work group encourages and supports R&D on a worldwide basis.

Leather International: What future trends do you see for scientific research in the leather industry?

VC: For me the main problem of the leather industry is that leather processing is using principally the same basic technology for more than one hundred years. The basic tanning operation is still basic chromium sulphate (BCS). All pre-tanning, tanning and post-tanning operations are designed considering this fact. This can be viewed as the leather industry paradigm. Therefore we need water, drums, water compatible chemicals like surfactants, mechanical operations for removing water, etc. In my opinion we should think of changing the paradigm. Think about a streamlined system without using water as transport media, without drums, using new technologies and another kind of tanning reaction. I know that I am speculating here, but I also believe that this is possible. We should support such research. We should observe and involve unusual disciplines other than those we have benefited from till now. We must be prepared to think of a different chemistry, other than the usual one for tanning. Then a leather-making process will appear that can avoid the main problems of the tanning industry and are the source of environmental criticism.

Leather International: Can you briefly tell us about the ongoing work being carried out by the IUX sub-committees?

VC: We have seven commissions or work groups in the IULTCS. Probably the best known are the IUP, IUC and IUF commissions that develop leather test methods for physical, chemical and fastness properties. These test methods are published as ISO Standards under a special agreement with ISO. The IUE has also been around for some time and as mentioned before is working on environmental issues. This group has around 30 delegates from member societies. The IUE is currently working on a guideline for restricted products in leather and a guideline for setting the boundaries for calculating the carbon footprint. A newer work-group is the IUT, the training commission which is responsible for establishing a framework for global leather education and training. The IUT has recently prepared a certification process, which serves to identify and validate continuing professional development (CPD) for leather industry people. We also have the IUR, research commission, whose aim is to encourage global research projects and establish technology platforms to fulfil the requirement for the development of a best practice technology and continuous improvement for leather processing. This commission provides an IUR certification process for leather R&D projects in order to help facilitate project funding. The most recent commission one is the IUL, the Communication and Liaison Commission, that is working on internal and external communications and relations with other industry organisations. All news releases are prepared by this commission.

Leather International: Critics of the IULTCS say that not enough tanners support or attend national, regional and international congresses. What are you doing to address this matter?

VC: The IULTCS always encourages participation from tanneries, but we understand that technicians do not always have time to attend events. However, tanners should know that they are always welcome and the Union appreciates those who do actively participate and contribute to IULTCS activities.
Much of the scientific and technological development of the tanning industry was carried out historically by big chemical concerns. But the world has changed and these companies invest less in R&D for the leather industry today. Perhaps the biggest geographic shift in leather research has been the reduction of basic research being done in the West, but at the same time there is a significantly increased amount of work being done in Asia, especially from government research institutes and universities based in China and India. I think that the IUL is playing an important role to encourage more communication and cooperation between different professional organizations in the leather industry. The GLCC is a good example of where we are working together with tanners and hide and skin suppliers to address core industry issues in a cooperative agreement that includes the ICT and ICHSLTA. We also have good communication with other influential organisations such as the LWG.
More concretely we are trying to involve more tanneries in the organisation of the upcoming 2013 Istanbul Congress. The whole Turkish Leather sector supports the organisation of this World Congress. I expect good presence and participation of Turkish tanners and I also expect participation of other tanners from the global leather industry.

Leather International: What steps are being taken to ensure global funding is in place from government and industry for future research?

VC: It is not the role of the IULTCS to ensure global funding is in place for the leather industry. The IULTCS is a professional scientific body that promotes, facilitates, and encourages the use of science and technology for the industry. We are a "knowledge" organisation where global issues are discussed, where new ideas are shared and challenged by peer review, and where the best scientific methods and technologies are adopted. Our role is to assist the procurement of research funding through networking and support of projects that are relevant to the leather industry.

Leather International: The recent AICLST congress organised by the Taiwan Leather Industry Association (TILA) was excellent and they have raised the bar in terms of organising a successful all round event. What can delegates expect in terms of the social and networking programme in Istanbul?

VC: The AICLST was indeed an exemplary success thanks to TILA. The whole organization worked "like a Swiss clock" and the organising committee prepared everything in detail.
Istanbul is one of the most attractive and historic cities in the world. There are many opportunities for social activities in this city – it is alive 24 hours. The organising committee is working on a number of attractive activities. They are looking at an historic place for a gala dinner and the welcome cocktail will also be in a special historic corner of Istanbul. An optional cruise dinner on a boat through the Bosphorus river would be another social activity to bring together all attendees and accompanying guests. The scientific programme seems to be tight and it will not be easy to combine with an extensive social programme, but I am sure the organising committee will find clever solutions to ensure everybody enjoys the visit to Istanbul. I certainly hope that the Istanbul Congress will be a good memory for everybody in the history of IULTCS, both in terms of scientific level as well as social activities. I am looking forward to meeting as many participants as possible in Istanbul.

Is there anything else you would like to mention that is not covered in the previous questions?

VC: Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to talk about the IULTCS and our next Congress. I invite as many attendees as possible from the leather world to attend to the 32nd IULTCS Istanbul Congress this May. I am sure you will witness scientific innovations that the industry will come to rely on for our future. I am looking forward to see you all in the wonderful city of Istanbul on May 29th 2013.

About Dr Volkan Candar
Dr Candar joined the leather Industry in 1986 following completion of his PhD in Chemical Engineering. His first employer was Henkel. Through the years he assumed different responsibilities for the company, including a move to Italy from 1996 to 2002 where he managed worldwide R&D and Applications. Henkel sold their chemistry division, including leather, to an equity company under the name Cognis. Soon after, Pulcra was born as a new leather & textile company. Dr Candar currently manages the Turkish leather business unit and coordinates worldwide R&D and Applications. During these years he has been involved in many professional activities and was one of the Turkish leather technicians who founded DETEK, the Turkish Leather Technicians and Chemist’s Society, and promoting DETEK to join the IULTCS. Candar has worked for many years in the Turkish Leather Foundation which organises the Istanbul International Leather Fair (IDF). Currently he is the president of TURDEV, whose main task is to support education in the leather industry. Dr Candar became more active in the IULTCS after 2006 Istanbul EuroCongress when he took responsibility for the formation of the Research Commission (IUR) and became a member of the Executive Committee. He assumed the role of Vice-President and from January 2012 have had the honour to preside as President of IULTCS.

Caption: Dr Volkan Candar addressing the AICLST congress in Taipei