Incredible New Material Discovered

In Article5 Minutes

Environmental

Imagine if we only discovered leather today for the first time. How do you think the story would read, maybe something like this….

Breaking News: A ground-breaking natural material, dubbed ‘leather,’ has been discovered. Labelled as a saviour for our planet, this versatile substance is set to revolutionise many industries. From car seats to clothing, furniture to footwear, ‘leather’ is poised to replace fossil-based synthetic materials, thereby significantly reducing our carbon footprint and environmental damage.

Little is known about this new discovery just now, but the team who made the breakthrough have stated they will be very transparent in the coming months and have declared they will make the science behind producing ‘leather’ available to everyone as the sooner the world can stop making plastic composite materials, the better it will be.

So, what do we know about leather? In a first-seen report from the team, these are the details:

It’s made from a by-product

Remarkably, ‘leather’ comes from meat and dairy cattle hides and is classed as a by-product. Whilst the world has been eating meat, drinking milk and benefitting from the protein this provides, all the hides that have been discarded now have a home.

It's safe to say the world will be a better, healthier, and more stylish place to live when we all have ‘leather’ in our homes, wardrobes, and car interiors.

It’s natural and bio-based

‘Leather’ is a natural material with a biogenic carbon content of over 80%, and the team is confident that this will be close to 100% in the next few years.

It reduces landfill and, therefore, Greenhouse Gases (GHG)

Up until now, all these cattle hides (roughly 331 million per year) have been going to landfills, creating earth-shattering amounts of GHG. Early calculations by the team show that if the automotive industry adopts ‘leather’ for car interiors, it will save 644 million kg CO2e per year, and that’s without the savings of not producing the plastic composite materials they are currently using, which could more than double this figure.

It’s part of the circular economy

Everything is used, and nothing is wasted that we now we can make ‘leather’ from the hides. Upon reaching the end of its life, ‘leather’ can be composted to enrich the soil. This, in turn, nurtures grass growth, providing sustenance for the cows that initiate this regenerative cycle all over again.

It’s so versatile

It would seem there are so many uses for ‘leather’, and small tweaks in how it is made can result in different types and finishes. We’re told they can make leather any colour you want; they can digitally print on it to make fabulous designs; embossing the surface can produce consistent finishes, allowing hides with scars or insect bites to be used, instead of thrown away; quilting and perforations can be added to bring modern design ideas, and we’re hearing they have experimented putting electronics and buttons behind leather in car dashboards.

It’s a high-performing material

Tests show that leather is very durable and will last for decades with very simple maintenance. It also is breathable and adjusts to body temperature, making it comfortable to wear and sit on during long journeys in a car. ‘Leather’ is naturally flame retardant, unlike the plastic composite materials we are used to. Until now, we have been used to having to throw away and replace our plastic composite clothes; this will become a thing of the past. And no more trips to the car shop to get our seats recovered every 2 or 3 years as we’re told if we damage ‘leather’, it can be repaired!

As we learn more from the team, who are currently sending out samples for us all to try, we will bring it to you. But it’s safe to say the world will be a better, healthier, and more stylish place to live when we all have ‘leather’ in our homes, wardrobes, and car interiors.

Wow – what a story that would make.

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    The Plastic Elephant In The Room

    In Article5 Minutes

    Environmental

    Fashion trends and automotive interior design have been inextricably linked for decades, and the colours, materials and finishes we see on catwalks are often echoed in the latest car launches. A recent trend in fashion has been the introduction of ‘vegan leather’, bringing animal-free material that looks like leather to the masses. The media hype has taken this and made it seem like the planet's saviour, but recently, people are starting to understand the truth: it's made from plastic.

    Fast fashion has fully adopted vegan leather, and with good reason: it’s relatively inexpensive to make and can be sold as a premium product; it’s been given a thumbs up by certain fashion designers as being cruelty-free; the marketers come up with some fancy name but forget to inform you of the harm it’s doing to the planet.

    A report published by Consumption Research Norway (SIFO)* looks at understanding the growth in clothing and textile production, the plastification of these materials and the related environmental impacts (the plastic elephant in the room). Part of the report’s findings is that there are no clear strategies for reducing synthetic fibres or measures to halt plastification.

    Recently, the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI) has highlighted new data showing that crude oil products have a significantly higher CO2 footprint than previously calculated. The latest updates to the Swiss ecoinvent database have rectified the discrepancies with revised data for fossil raw materials and plastics. Germany-based Nova Institute analysed the effect of these updates, and results show the carbon footprint of fossil naphtha rose by 107% whilst PE saw an increase of 34%, PP of 30%, and PET of 26%**.

    The consequence of making “vegan leather” is creating a new linear material with a high percentage of plastic. Whether it’s virgin plastic or recycled, the impact on the planet from producing plastic is significant. These alternative leather materials are shown to have limited performance and, therefore, a reduced life span. These composite materials can’t be recycled and will inevitably end up in landfill, where it will take hundreds of years to decompose and release toxins and greenhouse gases into our land and oceans.

    The consequence of making “vegan leather” is creating a new linear material with a high percentage of plastic. Whether it's virgin plastic or recycled, the impact on the planet from producing plastic is significant.

    Leather is part of the circular economy, where every part of the cow is used, and nothing is wasted. The hides are upcycled into leather, a natural material with a biogenic carbon count of over 80%. Leather is naturally biodegradable; upon reaching its end of life, it can be composted to enrich the soil. This, in turn, nurtures the growth of grass, providing sustenance for the very cows that initiate this regenerative cycle all over again.

    Leather is naturally biodegradable. A rawhide will decompose quickly, and a tanned hide will take 10 to 50 years, depending on how it is processed. When you compare this to ‘vegan leather’, it’s a fraction of the time. With no current viable option but landfill, these plastic and fossil-fuel-based synthetics will still be around in 500 – 1,000 years, emitting dangerous gases and microplastics that are harmful to the environment and human health.

    In recent years, automotive tanneries have invested heavily in ensuring that leather is produced more sustainably and environmentally friendly, reducing carbon emissions. Current developments in sustainable tanning and finishing reduce the time it takes to biodegrade or turn into compost, further lessening the impact on the planet.

    With the recent EU vote for anti-greenwashing laws by an overwhelming majority, which will ban the use of environmentally friendly claims without proof, it will change how products are labelled, prevent unfounded durability claims, and stop companies trying to kid on that products made with plastic are ok because trees were planted to offset the carbon.

    With these new data and reports, increased knowledge of the harm plastics pose to our planet and upcoming greenwashing legislation, surely it’s time to eliminate the plastic elephant in the room and expand the use of natural, circular products such as genuine automotive leather.

    Reference And Sources Used
    * https://bit.ly/3SMd4t6

    ** https://bit.ly/48rpTz7

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      A Modern Tannery Is A State-Of-The-Art Facility

      The leather industry has, for decades, been at the forefront of innovation in sustainable technologies. It has helped manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint, but also produce leathers that are eco-friendlier produced and free of VOCs. Yet, the public image of tanneries is often very different.

      When you think of a leather tannery, you are likely to have an image in your mind of an open pit filled with liquid. Hides are hanging from racks around these as workers in shorts and t-shirts handle the substances used to produce leather. And that’s as far from the truth as it gets in how leather today is produced in safe, state-of-the-art facilities, yet for unclear reasons, media reports keep featuring pictures of tourist attractions or third-world facilities. Let’s see what a modern tannery looks like.