Finishing topic at Reutlingen16 May 2003
The 30th annual LGR seminar took place from March 18-20, 2003, at the Lederinstitut Gerberschule Reutlingen, Germany. Finishing was this year's theme and opening the event, LGR director Dr Heinz-Peter Germann welcomed the delegates, up 20% over four years ago when the topic was also finishing and there were around 100 participants. 'No other companies can boast such growth', said Germann. Participants attended the seminar from 14 countries, including eight from the US. More than one-third were from the leather production side, one-half from the chemical industry, and the remaining participants from auxiliary areas. The environmental aspect of the leather industry was a common theme among many of the presentations. 'The most pressing subject in our day-to-day work is the ecology of leather production. The EC is facing more and more regulations, for example the California Proposition 65', said Dr Stefan Adams, BASF. 'The OEMs are now specifying only a tiny amount of VOC content, and we've been able to reduce this further down to 4-5g per sq m, and we can reduce this level even further in the future. Then there's NMP, now banned in California, and California often takes the lead in terms of new regulations with other states soon to follow suit. 'There are many other emissions being analysed at the moment but is it justified that we end up using a far more technical solution to avoid them? However, leather is a product for end-users and needs to keep up with growing ecological know-how and developments.' Dr Wolfgang Wenzel, head of the leather chemicals division of Bayer, discussed binders for finishing, with special emphasis on NMP problems in polyurethanes. 'With any other materials containing NMP, the product can be put in the oven and NMP levels are reduced. But we can't do this with leather and, after drying, NMP levels can be as high as 90% and will remain in the leather for up to six months. 'If you asked me two years ago if NMP would be made illegal, I would have said 'don't be silly', so who knows what the next regulation will be. NMP manufacturers are pushing hard for the legislators to introduce a 'safe harbour value', ie a limit where NMP is acceptable, and then maybe we can continue using NMP in leather production.'