Smit & zoon has filed a European patent application for ‘lignin modified polyphenolic leather chemicals’, making it the first leather chemical company to use lignin modified polyphenolic in its products.

The patent describes the smart utilisation of industrial lignin to mix with phenol in the production of otherwise 100% petro-based polyphenolic retanning chemicals. Part of the phenol in the concerning products is replaced by lignin during the chemical conversion process.

Trials with lignin-based products are currently taking place. “First trials show a great outcome on leather," said Dr Yujie Ma, a scientist in Smit & zoon’s research department. "The lignin-based products bring fullness and softness and result in an equal and intense dye.”

Smit & zoon’s bio-based platform aims to increase the bio-based content and the degree of biodegradability in the company’s leather chemical portfolio. This is in line with the Dutch company's strategy to play a catalysing role in making the leather value chain largely sustainable by 2025.

Lignin is a natural cross-linked polyphenol derived from biomass that is formed in the cell walls of wood or agricultural crops and plants providing structural strength. Lignin constitutes about 20-35% of the mass of every tree or plant and is the most abundant natural aromatic resource. As a by-product from the pulp and paper industry, lignin is currently mainly burned to generate energy.