The tanning and leather industry is no stranger to the sustainable mindset. As mentioned in previous newsletters, the entire concept of making leather goods is based on recycling industrial waste of the food sector. The hides and skins of slaughtered animals are residues of meat production, which is necessary for a balanced diet. We don’t waste resources! In fact, tanning is probably the world’s most efficient recycling industry, as virtually all hides and skins generated at global level are recovered and recycled. Tanners cooperate with stylists and designers as well as other industries to make the most out of our raw materials.
According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, 7.2 million tonnes of skins and hides are generated every year. Without the tanning and the leather industry, they would have to go to landfill or incineration, producing greenhouse gases. I hear you say, livestock production also contributes to emissions. Indeed, but by substituting the need for synthetic textiles or plastic, made with unsustainable petrochemicals, tanning precludes that impact and generates more added value, all from renewable resources.
Leather is not fast fashion! It is durable and repairable and becomes even more beautiful while ageing. You can enjoy a leather product all your life and even pass it on to your children.
Look at substitutes for leather. They are often made of polymers, like polyurethane or PVC, and often carry a heavy petroleum-based coating. Have you thought about microplastic pollution? Plastics are being found everywhere, from mountaintops to the deepest depths of the ocean. They also take significantly longer to biodegrade after disposal– a few hundred years, for sure.
Tanners in Europe have made a big step towards sustainability. They are not yet there with zero pollution, but that is the ambition. This is why after a successful first edition in 2012, European tanners will produce a new European Social and Environmental Report. Data on social accountability and environmental performance of tanneries is currently being collected from all over Europe. We want to see how far we have progressed towards our goal!
To sum up, European tanners are continuously improving their manufacturing processes with state-of-the-art technologies, to make their leather products every time more sustainable – because with sustainability comes more efficiency, durability and high-quality processes and products.
So, you can wear and use our leather products with a good conscience: through recycling and sustainable development of manufacturing, European tanners contribute to a cleaner and greener environment.