Why Leather Is Ideal For Building A Circular Economy

In Article2 Minutes

Month: June 2021

One of the ways we can build a more sustainable future is to develop a ‘circular economy’. A circular economy is defined as “an economic system of closed loops in which raw materials, components and products lose their value as little as possible, renewable energy sources are used and systems thinking is at the core.” As a rare material that improves with age, genuine leather is uniquely suited to fit into such an economic model and it’s just another way in which this natural material demonstrates its sustainable credentials.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was set up to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. One of its case studies highlights Better World Fashion – a ground-breaking company determined to make the notoriously throwaway world of fashion more sustainable. Better World Fashion identified leather clothing as the ideal candidate for their ground-breaking business model, which goes way beyond simply recycling materials.

By collecting used leather from across Denmark, Better World Fashion repairs or entirely refashions the material into new garments, which it sells at prices similar to brand new items. The company can do this because of leather’s unique patina which actually adds value with age rather than depreciating as most other materials do.

Owners of the new jackets are encouraged to recycle them once more when they fancy a change. Leather’s durability means its usable lifetime can be extremely long but, even when it can no longer be sold as a jacket it can be reused in smaller items like gloves or wallets. Round and round it goes.

Few other materials can deliver value over the long term in this way, which is one of the reasons why leather continues to be the material of choice, not only in fashion but in the automotive sector too.

Read HERE the full article.

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    Is Leather “More Than A By-Product Of The Meat Industry”?

    In Article5 Minutes

    Month: June 2021

    Although the internet is often seen as a handy way to spread misinformation and ‘fake news’, it can also be a great channel for two-way discussions. A quick search will give you countless pro- and anti-leather articles but scrolling down to the comments can help give a balanced viewpoint.

    A case in point was an article entitled Leather Is More Than “a By-Product of the Meat Industry which makes a case against leather usage based on the incorrect suggestion that meat producers are incentivised to cultivate cattle for their hides alone. This is untrue: hides are simply a by-product of the producers’ main business – selling meat. It also recycles myths in regard to leather’s sustainability and animal welfare issues as well as overlooking the fact that most alternatives to leather are considerably less environmentally friendly in the long run.

    What is most refreshing, however, are the comments the article attracted which were largely in favour of leather and anxious to point out errors in the piece. One commenter, for example, points out that fake leather alternatives are generally plastic-based. Such plastics do not degrade and will go on polluting the environment for possibly thousands of years. In addition, they correctly state that plastic pollution is responsible for killing wildlife “in horrible ways”. While the meat industry is subject to strict animal welfare regulations, ironically, it is the fake leather industry that could be said to be responsible for actual animal cruelty in this regard.

    On pollution in the leather industry, one commenter reminds the writer that vegetable-tanned leather is a traditional alternative to the use of chromium salts. It has to be said, too, that even when chromium is used in the industry it is done under strict environmental controls anyway. The correspondent says the idea of just putting animal hides in landfill would be an “environmental insult” and that he/she knows “of leather designers who are vegan and produce pieces made from recycled or environmentally sourced leathers”.

    Hides are simply a by-product of the producers’ main business – selling meat

    Another commenter, who describes themselves as a vegetarian, criticises the writer for a lack of diligence in their research and the use of arbitrary statistics. The article’s author claims that “leather accounts for approximately 10% of the animal’s total value, making it the most valuable part, pound for pound”. However, this is simply not the case. According to a report from the Leather and Hide Council of America:

    “Although by-products have traditionally accounted for 8-10% of total live fed steer value, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Marketing Information Center as of April 29, 2020, suggest by-products are averaging slightly below 7% of total carcass value, with hides hovering slightly above 1% of the entire value of the animal – perhaps the lowest percentage on record.”

    There is space for pragmatism in the comments as well. Another respondent writes: “I don’t eat meat, and would love it if everyone else didn’t but, since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, it seems wasteful not to use the leather from those animals already previously slaughtered for meat. Besides, leather lasts quite a bit longer than the alternatives.”

    This point is taken up by another person, who says in their experience “leather can last decades if cared for”. They go on to explain that even at the end of its usable life, “leather is biodegradable, so it is broken down into the earth with minimal chemical impact” – in stark contrast to plastic alternatives.

    The claim and counter-claim narrative with this article makes for an interesting read. As a fact-based resource of information, we at One 4 Leather are pleased to see poor research challenged so effectively.

    Read HERE the full article (and the comments!)

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      Waste Not Want Not: Leather Proves Its Sustainability Credentials Yet Again

      In Article2 Minutes

      Month: June 2021

      If you are in any doubt of the sustainability credentials of leather, this story is for you. Douglas McMaster is a pioneering chef who established the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant, SILO. The people at Billy Tannery wrote a blog post about how they were asked to provide aprons for all the staff at the restaurant.

      Billy Tannery was set up a few years ago when the founders were appalled by the fact that thousands of goatskins leftover from the food industry were being thrown away each year. In a world waking up to the need for more renewable materials, this seemed like madness. So they started the tannery and began making all kinds of fine goat leather accessories.

      SILO was also started thanks to a passionate belief in sustainability. In its efforts to reduce waste, SILO doesn’t even have a bin: everything is either used or composted. According to Billy Tannery’s blog, SILO wanted to find aprons that wouldn’t need to go in the washing machine – as a way of saving both energy and water. Goat leather aprons fitted the bill perfectly. As they say in the blog, “This project brings together everything Billy Tannery stands for – from fighting waste to reconnecting leather with the food chain”. 

      The same could be said of all kinds of leather derived from the meat industry. Leather is the perfect way of using an otherwise unwanted resource and turning it into something useful, practical and beautiful.

      Read HERE the full article.

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        Hyundai Solves The Mystery Of Why The Palisade Literally Stinks

        In Article1 Minutes

        Month: June 2021

        It smells like dirty socks, spicy garlic, cabbage or just “really bad”. These were just some of the consumer complaints concerning the odour inside the Hyundai Palisade’s cabin, according to autoblog.com. Hyundai took the problem very seriously and traced the scent back to an unexpected cause: the imitation leather used for the headrests.

        Hyundai explained that the smell was released due to a flaw in the manufacturing process. The solution was to spray each headrest with odour-neutralising chemicals. The holes that the headrests mount into also had to be taken care of. Dealers are instructed how to use this spray, to serve consumers directly. If the smell does not go away, a second round of deep cleaning is required.

        Worst-case scenario? All seven headrests have to be taken back to be replaced by new ones, upholstered with non-smelly imitation leather – free of charge but luckily also free of funky smells.

        Of course, if they had used genuine leather, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place!

        Read the full article here

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          Rollercoaster Year Ends With Return To Leather

          In Article2 Minutes

          Month: June 2021

          Fluctuations in the price of leather are nothing new but the last year has been something else. As things start to return to normal, we can reflect on two outcomes: first, the dependency of the leather industry on the meat industry has been thrown into sharp relief. Indeed, without the meat industry there would be no leather industry. And second, although demand for leather might wain occasionally – during a pandemic, for example, when everyone has other things on their mind – its enduring appeal remains and demand will recover as sure as night follows day.

          The up and down nature of the leather industry was demonstrated most clearly by a couple of articles from October 2020 and April 2021 in which La Conceria reported on the Argentinian leather market. The pandemic caused a downturn in demand for leather products, which resulted in abattoirs having to stockpile hides and skins from the meat processing industry. The stockpiling prompted the government to remove all customs duties on hide exports, so they could more easily find international buyers. And it worked: abattoirs could clear the backlog of hides and breathe again.

          However, recovering demand meant prices rose and the domestic Argentinian tanneries found it hard to compete. Therefore, the tanneries in Argentina now want the government to reimpose export duties to re-establish the former symbiotic balance between the meat producers and leather producers.

          Similar boom & bust situations are being reported around the world. ILM reported that pre-pandemic European and Chinese tanneries were increasing volumes in a buoyant market. But hide prices then crashed at the height of the pandemic before the recovery began in China. Hopefully, similar recoveries lead by the USA and Europe will see a swift return to normalcy and the balance between meat production and hide production restored.

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            It’s Official: Leather Is In A Class Of Its Own

            In Article1 Minutes

            Month: June 2021

            Strange but true: in the EU, ‘leather’ is not a legally protected term. That means manufacturers can produce what they claim to be “leather substitutes” in an unregulated way. Not only that, the media often pick up on these and make unsubstantiated claims about them being ‘better’ than leather in different ways.

            According to a short article written recently by Leather UK, the umbrella organisation of European tanners associations, COTANCE, decided to get to the facts of the matter. It commissioned a report from the independent Research Institute for Leather and Synthetic Materials (FILK) which compared substitutes with actual leather.

            The report found that none of the tested substitutes exhibited all of the performance characteristics of leather. Especially in terms of water vapour permeability and absorption, leather outperforms them all. Worryingly, too, some substitutes even contained chemicals of concern.

            At the end of the day, leather is happy to compete with alternatives but in any competition, the playing field needs to be level. If substitutes want to call themselves ‘leather’ they need to be up front about how they really measure up to the real thing right across the board.

            Read full article here.

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              Regenerative Farming Idea Could Pull Carbon From The Air

              In Article2 Minutes

              Month: June 2021

              recent articlereported on the development of “microbe-mediated carbon sequestration” which would address two of the world’s most pressing challenges: climate change and soil degradation.

              Essentially, it is a way of using microbial fungi and bacteria to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it deep beneath the ground – potentially for centuries.

              Regenerative farming methods like this, which strengthen the soil and increase carbon sequestration, are not only relevant to the world’s arable farmers. Managed pasturelands for livestock are also part of this regeneration cycle – particularly how cattle also fertilise the soil with their manure.

              Soil Carbon Co, the developers of the new biotechnology, say that their method is so low cost and easy to adopt that farmers everywhere will be able to use it. They would need to simply inoculate their crops with microbes “and let nature take its course”.

              Essentially, it is a way of using microbial fungi and bacteria to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it deep beneath the ground – potentially for centuries.

              The science depends on certain microbial fungi which live symbiotically in the roots of plants. The fungi convert carbon dioxide naturally absorbed by the plant into compounds that resist breakdown by moisture in the ground. The compounds remain underground where, in the absence of oxygen, the carbon is stored for the long term.

              While the inventors don’t claim it will solve the climate crisis, they do think it could “buy the world some time to transition away from fossil fuels”. It’s yet another way that regenerative farming could play an important part in all our futures.

              Read the full article here

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                Livestock Make Positive Contribution To Carbon Reduction

                In Article3 Minutes

                Month: June 2021

                A lot of hot air is expended by critics of the meat industry - regarding the methane emissions produced by cattle and the effect they have on climate change. Many of their claims are disputed and, as we have reported before, new science shows that methane from ruminant agriculture is not categorically causing global warming. However, even if these methane emissions are found to contribute in any way to global warming, that is still only half the story.

                In an appeal for “greater understanding of the whole picture”, an article in Successful Farming recently highlighted how grazing livestock actually help to store increased levels of carbon in the soil – and in quantities that far offset the cows’ much-debated methane production.

                All plants contribute to a degree of carbon sequestration by taking carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and using it to grow roots, shoots and leaves. But scientists have now discovered that grazing increases the amount of carbon stored in grassland soils. As it turns out, the action of cattle grazing actually encourages the plant to produce more roots, absorbing more CO2 to do so. The researchers point to studies “where the average mass of plant roots harvested from grazed grasslands was more than 2,400 pounds (1088 kg) per acre. Compared to ungrazed grasslands, the average mass of plant roots was 740 pounds (335 kg) per acre” (study published in Global Change Biology).

                In an appeal for “greater understanding of the whole picture”, an article in Successful Farming recently highlighted how grazing livestock actually help to store increased levels of carbon in the soil – and in quantities that far offset the cows’ much-debated methane production.

                The amount of sequestered carbon far outweighs the amount of methane that critics claim the cattle are responsible for producing. Of course, there are also the additional benefits that grassland provides in terms of water purification, flood mitigation and the propagation of diverse wildlife.

                The role of cattle in global warming is often cited as an argument against the leather industry. Although critics may concede that genuine leather is simply a by-product of the meat industry, they turn their ire on the very existence of cattle herds in the first place. However, now, it looks as though those cattle are actually playing a major role in reducing carbon emissions – not increasing them as previously claimed.

                Read the full article here

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