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Tech for Good: How Technology is Tackling the Environmental Impact of Leather Production in the Fashion Industry

As one of the most versatile materials in the fashion and furniture sectors, leather has grown in popularity. But many people need to understand that producing leather has serious environmental consequences. Not only is the production of leather inefficient, but it also uses several dangerous chemicals that are bad for the environment. In this article, we'll examine the effects leather production has on the environment and how technology is assisting in finding solutions.



By: Arinze Okigbo

In the production of leather, farming, slaughtering, tanning, and finishing are just a few of the many steps in the process. Water usage throughout the leather-making process is one of the most significant environmental issues. Research by The Queen Mary University of London estimates that it takes 16,600 litres of water on average to create one kilogram of leather.  This is so that the hides can be soaked, the tanning chemicals can be cleaned, and the leather can be rinsed.


The quantity of energy consumed in manufacturing leather is another environmental concern. Much energy is needed to heat the water required to make leather and power the machinery. This energy is frequently produced using non-renewable resources like coal and oil, which cause the atmosphere to be filled with greenhouse gases.


In addition to harming the environment, the chemicals employed in manufacturing leather also pose several health hazards. Many of these chemicals are poisonous and can damage the liver, kidneys, and skin, causing respiratory and skin issues.


Fortunately, technology is assisting in addressing many of these issues related to leather production's adverse effects on the environment and human health. New tanning techniques that employ less water and chemical agents are one example. Some businesses are also looking into alternatives to leather, like plant materials.


The use of biotechnology is one technology that has a considerable impact on the leather industry. Living things like bacteria, fungi, and algae are used in biotechnology to make goods. In the case of leather, biotechnology is being employed to create an eco-friendly, sustainable type of leather that is biofabricated.


Collagen, the protein that gives biofabricated leather its strength and durability, is grown in a lab as part of the process. To make a material that resembles leather in appearance and feel but has a considerably less negative impact on the environment, this collagen is blended with plant-based elements like pineapple leaves or mushrooms. Compared to conventional leather production, this method utilises much less energy and water, and no hazardous chemicals are used.


Automation is a different type of technology that assists in lowering the environmental effect of leather production. Automation is the use of machines to complete jobs that people previously completed. Automation reduces the amount of energy and water consumed in manufacturing leather. For instance, some businesses utilise automated systems to regulate the humidity and temperature throughout the tanning process, which lowers the energy needed to heat the water.


In conclusion, there are serious environmental challenges associated with manufacturing leather. However, technology is assisting in addressing many of these problems. Many creative solutions are being developed to build a more sustainable and environmentally friendly leather industry, from new tanning techniques to biofabricated leather and automation. It is up to businesses and customers to adopt these technologies and change the world.


The Queen Mary University of London


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