Leather Recycling

Problem

For various reasons, brands seem reluctant to recycle leather. There appears to be a resistance to using old products/leather in new ranges, which could be due to a lack of knowledge on how this can be carried out, or a reluctance to spend time and money on this. This has often resulted in unsold finished products not being recycled, which has potentially environmentally damaging impacts.

Customer perception may also influence a brand’s decision as to whether they recycle their goods or not. While there appears to be an overall increase in acceptance, and sometimes desire, for more circular products, there is also a concern that recycled material can be seen as inferior.

This perception likely comes from the idea that the material is not ‘new’ and therefore the overall quality of the material has deteriorated, although generally not the case with well-made products produced from recycled materials. Having said this, customer values have changed significantly in recent years with increased awareness on the negative impacts that the human population are having on the environment, which could result in the market and demand for recycled materials increasing significantly, providing an opportunity for brands and retailers to provide an increased range of recycled products.

Challenges with Recycling

Although the recycling of materials creates a circular economy and therefore increases sustainability, there are potential challenges to recycling leather.

Theoretically, offcuts of leather created within the leather manufacturing process are more easily recycled than final products at the end of their life. However, with a potential lack of market for offcuts, this product is often disposed of in the tannery. Although some brands are making use of offcuts or combining leather offcuts with other materials to create a combination material, this is not currently widespread and often this material is used for certain products only.

There is an extra cost to recycling goods. If the market is not willing to pay the increased cost for a recycled product, it is unlikely that companies will invest. However, if waste material can be recycled, this presents an opportunity that may be attractive to customers.

Eurofins | BLC have a number of services that can be offered to support you with your recycling, including:

  • Recycling of textiles, clothing, leather and leather footwear specifically
  • Accelerated decomposition and biodegradability
  • Looking at supply chains for reuse, upcycling, recycling and rebranding of product
  • Waste to energy from leather waste
  • Roadmap to longer term innovation around end of life use and circular economy

Further examples of similar case studies that we can provide more information on are below;

  • Recycled Plastics
  • LCA on bonded leather fibre
  • Utilising leather straps and waste to generate energy through gasification and co-generation technologies

For further information, please visit the Leather Consulting web page or contact Eurofins | BLC on +44 (0)1604 679999.

Is the recycling of leather a viable option for brands and retailers?

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