Renowned entities within leather and footwear assembled for the 33rd instalment of the IULTCS Congress in Brazil, organised by ABQTIC (the Brazilian Association of Leather Industry Technicians and Chemists) in the city of Novo Hamburgo, known as ‘the Brazilian capital of footwear’. It was during the 1980s that the city made its name as the largest footwear producer in the country, making the most of an ability inherited from the German settlers.

The IULTCS Congress is recognised as the world’s most important technical event in the leather industry and its last edition, in May 2013, was in Istanbul, Turkey. For this edition, Brazil was once again hosts – since the congress was held in Porto Alegre in 1993.
According to Cézar Müller, ABQTIC president, this edition not only examined urgent challenges faced every day by the tanning industry worldwide, but also presented new technologies and breakthrough scientific discoveries.

"We wanted the event to be a moment when everyone can be updated, find out what’s new within the industry and everything there is in academic terms to help our industry move forward," he said.

Paper chase

With a total number of papers approved in the form of abstracts at 183 out of 196 submitted from 24 countries, the congress was divided into several main theme areas such as fundamental research on collagen; science and leather technology; sustainability and waste treatment; chemical, energy and machinery advancements; health and safety; and certification and regulation. In fact, due to high demand, the deadline for submissions was extended.

"In the academic world, there’s a lot being produced in terms of leather, and people are willing to share their work," said Etevaldo Zilli, executive director of ABQTIC, ahead of the opening ceremony. "It is something that meets the congress’s objective, which is to serve as a moment of information [for updates]."

And according to the president of the event’s scientific commission, Luis Zugno, a significant part of the suggestions submitted suggest an industry development from chemical solutions (focused on nanotechnology) and production alternatives with lower environmental impact.

Olympic warm-up

It’s also symbolic that Brazil was the host for this congress, which took place at Feevale University in Novo Hamburgo, as Marlos Schmidt, president of Abrameq (the Brazilian Association of Machinery and Equipment Industries for Leather, Footwear and Allied Trades), believes that it’s a great platform for the country ahead of the summer Olympic Games next year.

"To welcome leather specialists from all over the world just serves to reinforce our international presence," he said. "Also, it gives us visibility, brings us the opportunity to build new relationships and the possibility to increase our presence in new markets. The fact that Brazil is hosting such an event highlights just how significant our leather industry truly is."

José Fernando Bello, executive president of CICB (the Centre for the Brazilian Tanning Industry), echoed this sentiment, saying the congress has the support of representatives from the entire sector.

Some of the standout discussions included James San Antonio’s Heidemann Lecture on collagen biology and laboratory advancements that have applications to the leather industry; Manuel Jacinto’s talk on evaluating crossbred cattle leathers; Guido Batema’s examination of oxidation stability of fat-liquors and preventing the formation of CrVI on leather; and Wolfram Scholz’s look into the challenges of biological nitrogen removal, reduction of sludge handling and disposal costs. Plus, among the central lectures, sustainability was a principle topic examined, for instance, by Álvaro Flores, CICB’s coordinator of the Brazilian Leather Sustainability Certification.

In addition to this, CSCB is an ambitious Brazillian initiative to establish robust leather certification based on economic, environmental and social parameters and, according to Flores, the congress was an ideal forum to present CSCB to the public since its inception in 2012, and address how tanneries can obtain certification.