Leather Naturally reports that a Scottish leather company called Muirhead recently refurbished 234 rail carriages for Irish Rail by re-covering 15,500 train seats with genuine leather. It is a reminder that leather is (quite literally) the natural choice for all kinds of transportation applications – including car interior leather – thanks to its unique properties.

Leather seats make business sense

Leather is sometimes thought of as a ‘luxury’ option. Indeed, Peter Smyth, Irish Rail’s Chief Mechanical Engineer, says that when the seats were first unveiled to the public, passengers would ask the guards to check their tickets because they thought they were in first class! It is true that leather does have a feel of supreme comfort and luxury but what this story shows is that car manufacturers are missing out on real commercial benefits by not using automotive leather. In line with the general move toward ‘decontenting’, fabric might seem like an easy option but, it turns out to be a false economy in the end – and it is their customers who must ultimately pick up the bill. (With thanks to our friends at Leather Naturally for the original article.)

Peter Smyth, Irish Rail’s Chief Mechanical Engineer, says that when the seats were first unveiled to the public, passengers would ask the guards to check their tickets because they thought they were in first class!

Veganism ≠ Sustainability

The leather industry was fast to spot some double standards here and COTANCE issued an open letter calling her out. While recognising the validity of her vegan beliefs they question whether her call during COP26 for leather to be cancelled in the fashion industry would be good for the environment by saying: “Promoting this credo at global scale makes no sense and runs counter to the logic of a circular economy”. The letter goes on to point out that “if the leather industry would not recycle the 8 million tonnes of hides and skins that it recovers every year, their decomposition would become a sanitary risk and release some 5 million tonnes of GHG”. That figure, incidentally, doesn’t even include the carbon emissions that the production of other materials would necessarily generate. Ultimately, they say, “promoting [the end of leather] only leads to generating pollution”.

Once again, the spat goes to show that veganism is not the same as sustainability. The fact that most alternatives to leather require the use of plastics to give them structure means that they are actually the very opposite of sustainable.

Leather traceability

While the leather industry may not see eye to eye with Stella McCartney on the use of leather, the idea of adding transparency to the supply chain through tools like Digital ID is something both can agree on. Industry commentator Mike Redwood was calling for this back in 2020 when he said, “following hides and skins back to source should not be impossible”. One 4 Leather has also reported on efforts being made by leather manufacturers to introduce just the kind of scrutiny that Digital ID is designed for, quoting Tatiana Shanina as saying that “some manufacturers source directly from slaughterhouses and can, therefore, trace their leather back to the animal”. Shanina also highlights the work done by the Leather Working Group who, she says, “is working with industry stakeholders to encourage and establish benchmarks for more responsible and transparent leather production”. The article goes on to summarise various ways – both hi-tech and low tech – that the leather industry is taking the issue of traceability seriously.

Initiatives like these can only help demonstrate that natural, bio-degradable leather is not a problem in terms of sustainability as Stella McCartney’s rather confused stance would suggest. On the contrary, it is part of the solution. Happily, thanks to Prince Charles, sustainable leather production now also seems, at least, to have a royal seal of approval.

Read full article here

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