Leather tanning is often wrongly recognised as a series of polluting and dangerous operations, instead of a way to restore prestige to hides coming from slaughter. More and more tanneries are working with alternative solutions that allow less environmental impact by ensuring a high-quality final product and enable them to reuse the waste of the process. Biotechnology research will be a key factor in reaching these goals, and supporting the environmental and social sustainability of the leather industry.

Biodermol Ambiente is committed to supporting research into, and development of, new products in order to offer the best available technologies to customers. The partnership with research centres such as the Centre for Integrative Biology (CIBIO) at the University of Trento in northern Italy has allowed Biodermol Ambiente to focus research on enzymes and their application in the leather-tanning industry.

Enzymes for daily processes

Enzymes are proteins naturally present in each living organism that are able to catalyse, or accelerate, the course of a spontaneous reaction, lowering its activation energy. Based on their three-dimensional structure and biochemical properties, each enzyme can act selectively against specific targets without generating by-products.

Tailored enzymes are successfully used in the cosmetics, food and paper industries. Leather-tanning processes, especially beamhouse, are also suitable, since many different targets (lipids, proteoglycan, glycosaminoglycans, pre-keratin) need to be degraded, preserving the composition of the derma and the collagen structure. Enzymes are the most cutting-edge solution to build a cleaner future for leather.

Innovative technologies for high-quality leather

The product line from Biodermol Ambiente, named WHITE LINE, was born from collaboration between leather technicians, researchers and customers, and made it possible to introduce enzymatic technology in the liming and soaking phases.

Using a combination of enzymes such as lipase, alpha-amylase and ialuronidase, WHITE LINE is designed to interact with several molecular targets without interfering with the structure of collagen. Since enzymes are controllable and stable, their application in liming and soaking guarantees high-quality final products with full belly, clear and clean pelt, and no blind grain formation.

Reducing environmental impact

The WHITE LINE approach also provides ecological advantages such as the reduction of auxiliaries (surfactant, wetting agents, sulphurs/sulphides and amines), water saving, and an improvement in waste water quality thanks to reduced COD, TKN and sulphides, as shown in the graph above.

All the results have been tested and proved directly by customers. In addition, WHITE LINE produces a less refractory COD and preserves the bacterial flora of the waste water treatment plant. To demonstrate how Biodermol Ambiente contributes to more sustainable and clear processes, all WHITE LINE products meet the requirements of the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) programme.

Combining high performance with economic advantages

The application of enzymes in beamhouse operations provides an increase in the production capacity due to the shorter process time needed. A significant saving for tanners also comes from decreased purchasing of chemicals and the reduction of waste water treatment costs.

Thanks, in particular, to the reduction in the amount of sulphides used, WHITE LINE also contributes to the creation of a better working environment by improving safety conditions for operators.

Finally, enzymatic beamhouse processes offer tanneries the chance to put into practice the concept of the circular economy, reusing the recovered hair as a raw material for industrial production (fertilisers, animal feed or biogas).