Anti-Microbial Coatings In Cars In Demand

In Article2 Minutes

Month: March 2021

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are much more self-aware when it comes to personal safety and hygiene. Industry Week published an article, stating that over 54% of car buyers are willing to pay more for antimicrobial coatings in their car interiors. Although COVID-19 is not a microbe, this is an interesting development because anti-microbial materials that are well-suited to car interiors have been available for a long time.

An anti-microbial coating would concern a specialized polymer coating on high touch surfaces, as the full interior coating is not economically viable (or likely interesting). The emergence of shared mobility has already prompted questions regarding interior hygiene and maintainability, which have become key factors in the future of car interiors. However, this trend of non-ownership may have seen a major setback, as the pandemic has caused consumers to value the idea of personal vehicles. Retaining shared mobility offers a big opportunity for the automotive leather industry.

However, there are simpler solutions such as changing the materials we use in car interiors. Collagen, from which leather is made, provides an ideal environment for microbial growth and antimicrobial agents are, therefore, used throughout the leather-making processes. This results in dirt and bacteria repelling properties embedded in the leather protein structure. Anti-microbial agents are applied only to the surface of plastic alternatives and these can easily abrade away during the products lifetime use – leather, therefore, has a more durable benefit to offer. Although we want safety, part of this rests on having fewer chemicals used in the production of leather for car interiors. Leather is the best option there.

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    Rise Of The Restomod

    In Article1 Minutes

    Month: March 2021

    Electric driving has inevitably been changing the way cars drive and the way car interiors look. Although this is part of the process, it creates a big hump for automotive gearheads who look for that luxurious car experience but are willing to pay for modern, environmentally friendly systems. An unlikely solution is the rise of Restomods.

    Restomods are old sportscars, renovated to look fresh and new again. However, some companies go beyond the interior and paintwork by replacing old engines with modern electric driving systems. These companies allow Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to catch up with electric vehicles (EVs), and EV producers to look back on the traditional past. Restomods give you a classic vehicle, complete with all the aesthetic elements you crave, but with the luxuries of today embedded.

    Restomods have classic leather car seats because that is the quintessential experience of a classic sports car. However, modern leather seats have additional benefits: they are durable, comfortable, lightweight (which contributes to power saving) and friction does not cause a sound. Leather is the perfect retro material for the future.

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      The Real Carbon Footprint Of Leather

      In Article9 Minutes

      Month: March 2021

      Determining the carbon footprint of products and production is a necessity and requires a thorough understanding of what a carbon footprint actually is and which complexities surround it. The carbon footprint of the food industry, from which leather is sourced, is already complex, and difficulties also arise when allocating the impact of leather to separate processes.

      Despite what we know about environmental management and best practice in leather manufacture, the knowledge we have on assessing a carbon footprint, and the answer to any question surrounding the real carbon footprint of leather is still tentative, at best.

      One standard for CO2 allocation

      Measuring the CO2 impact of leather has been an industry-wide goal, requiring a set standard. COTANCE, Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community, formulated the first set of guidelines, which resulted in the first Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) for leather. These rules provide a foundation and signify the first unified approach for measuring the CO2 impact of leather, based on a set standard. The PEFCR enables the industry to establish a method to assess the leather life cycle; the next step towards a global tool for assessing leather impact.

      Allocating the livestock carbon dioxide equivalent

      Allocating the carbon footprint of livestock remains the biggest challenge. Although leather is a by-product of the meat industry (according to the PEFCR standards), there is now an ongoing demand to consider the whole-life impacts of the material when determining the carbon footprint. (De Rosa et al., 2018).

      The PEFCR specify the percentage of CO2-e allocation for each type of leather. For example, the carbon dioxide equivalent of animal farming that allocated to full-grain bovine hides is estimated from 2.7 to 5.39 kg CO2-e /m2. This amount differs for split leather, where 1.88 to 3.76 kg CO2-e /m2 is transferred for the grain side (grain split), and 0.82 to 1.63 kg CO2-e /m2 is attributed to the flesh split (the flesh side of the hide, often used for suede).

      These examples highlight the difficulty in mapping carbon footprints of products for an industry with a variety of resource materials and production methods, as well as emission and waste management exist. No consensus has been reached on the definite way to measure the leather footprint, and it is unlikely that an easy answer will be found soon.

      Determining the carbon footprint of products and production is a necessity and requires a thorough understanding of what a carbon footprint actually is and which complexities surround it.

      The full footprint

      Much effort has been made to establish the carbon footprint of leather, however, there is still no established method. Leather can be produced using various resources and processes, and the final footprint is even influenced by location. One approach could be to look at the processes separately, and divide each process into ‘upstream’, ‘core’ and ‘downstream’ processes (Brugnoli & Kràl, 2012), depending on where each process is in the supply chain. The work of Jutta Knödler (2012) formed a baseline for solving the footprint of leather. Knödler established a framework for a comparative approach, by allocating a large amount of CO2-e to cattle rearing (something that is since disputed). The overall footprint from ‘cradle to grave’, was subsequently calculated by including the CO2-e of lifetime use into the allocation.

      Longevity and biodegradability are still absent from the carbon footprint equation. These factors can make a profound difference when leather is compared to polyester or textile products. Not only does leather last longer in general, but it is also reusable and biodegrading, and therefore doesn’t need to be disposed of. The leather industry has also recently challenged the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) on the Higg Index score applied to leather. The Higg Index is used to assess the sustainability of materials and was criticized by the leather industry for not considering many factors. Industry experts are now working together on better standards.

      Although there are a lot of aspects in Knödlers framework up for debate, the framework provides a basic approach to examine the full footprint of a material. Brugnoli also presented another leading view in the creation of a framework, specifying that it is important to also look beyond the downstream impact at end-of-life, which is different for leather than plastics. One of the most revolutionary insights on the impact of leather production was provided by Dr Mitloehner, a professor and air quality extension specialist. Mitloehner hypothesized that the methane emission cycle from cattle is consistent and, therefore, the CO2 impact of cattle remains zero. The CO2-e calculation demonstrates there is no impact as long as the size of the cattle herd remains consistent or decreases. Superimposing this hypothesis on the numbers suggested by Knödler yields an even smaller carbon footprint.

      What is still missing?

      There are still many uncertainties surrounding the calculation of leather carbon footprint. Many hypotheses are contradictory, and a struggle about allocation hardly serves a progressive approach to the issue. An example is the issue regarding methane versus CO2-e. Methane remains in the atmosphere for ten years, whereas CO2 lasts for hundreds of years. Dr Mitloehner suggests that this may level out the impact of cattle. Furthermore, the emergence of regenerative farming (Stocks, 2019) implies cattle rearing may create a positive impact on the carbon footprint. How will we apply this to leather?

      According to a calculation by the ECO2L certification scheme, the continuous improvement in tanning methods has enabled a reduction of the average tannery footprint. The animal feed itself also has the potential to cut the methane emissions from cows by half (Wallace et al. 2019). Being able to include the individual elements of a leather value chain such as the feed regime, region, and product longevity in a measurement framework could bring interesting new insights to how we measure material sustainability.

      References

      • Allen, M. R. et al. (2018). A solution to the misrepresentations of CO2-equivalent emissions of short-lived climate pollutants under ambitious mitigation. Retrieved from: Climate and Atmospheric Science. [Accessed: 20 October 2020]
      • Brugnoli, F., Král, I. (2012) Life Cycle Assessment, Carbon Footprint in Leather Processing. Unido. Retrieved from: Leatherpanel. [Accessed: 20 October 2020]
      • Stocks, C. (2019, June) The truth about farming and climate change, Farm Business, Issue 68. Accessed at: Farm Business. [Accessed: 20 February 2020]
      • De Rosa-Giglio P., Fontanella A., Gonzalez-Quijano G., Ioannidis I., Nucci B., Brugnoli F. 2018. Product environmental category rules – Leather. European Commission. Available at: European Union. [Accessed: 20 February 2020] ,
      • Flowers, K.B. and Flowers, I. 2018. Levelling the playing field. International Leather Maker May/Jun. p. 28-31
      • Knödler, J. (2012) Sustainability Benchmarking – the carbon footprint of upholstery materials for car seats. Available at: VÖLT. [Accessed 9 April 2018]
      • Mitloehner, F. M. (2016) Livestock’s Contribution to Climate Change: Facts and Fiction. Retrieved from: University of California. [Accessed 20 October 2020]
      • SAC (2020) SAC Responds to Leather Industry Concerns Over Higg MSI. Retrieved from: Sustainable Apparel Coalition. [Accessed: 20 October 2020]
      • Wallace, et al. (2019) A heritable subset of the core rumen microbiome dictates dairy cow productivity and emissions. Science Advances. Retrieved from: ScienceMag [Accessed 22 April 2020]

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