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How Tech is Tackling the Environmental Impact of Leather Production

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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.

Leather production begins with farming and moves on to  slaughtering, tanning, and finishing. Water usage throughout the leather-making process (soaking the hides, cleaning away the tanning chemicals, and rinsing the leather) is one of the industry’s most significant environmental issues. Research by The Queen Mary University of London estimates that it takes 16,600 liters of water on average to create one kilogram of leather.

The amount of energy used in manufacturing leather is another environmental concern. 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 fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses.

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, and can cause respiratory issues. 

But technology is 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 also 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 does considerably less damage to the environment, this collagen is blended with plant-based elements like pineapple leaves or mushrooms. Compared to conventional leather production, this method utilizes much less energy and water, and no hazardous chemicals are used.

Automation is a different type of technology that assists in mitigating the ill effects of leather production. 

Automation reduces the amount of energy and water consumed in manufacturing leather. For instance, some businesses utilize automated systems to regulate the humidity and temperature throughout the tanning process, which lowers the amount of 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. 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.

​Sources: 

The Queen Mary University of London
BioLeather

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Arinze Okigbo
Arinze Okigbo
Arinze Okigbo is a student at Thacher School in Ojai, California. He has a keen interest in technology and how it affects our society and environment. As part of his passion, he oversees a non-profit article website called TechBuzz.dev that provides up-to-date and informative articles on the intersection between technology and various societal issues.

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