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Ecology, Chapter I: The Leather

Mateusz, 27 august 2020
Ecology, Chapter I: The Leather

Natural leather is characterized by a number of significant advantages in comparison to its synthetic imitation - the so-called “eco-leather”.

We firmly believe that the best material for bags is cowhide. Why? There are numerous reasons for that - we have listed the most important ones below.

Cowhide is elastic and durable. It can be bent any number of times with no negative effects - especially important for products that are used daily.
If properly moisturized, it will not crack, break nor fall apart like its polymer substitutes.

It’s easy to renovate leather products. With a help of a specialist, leather goods may be moisturized, colour can be refreshed and cracks can be filled.
You can even do it yourself!

What is more, raw cowhides are large. The hide of a single animal is enough for really a lot - especially with good product planning.

Unexpectedly it is also a sensible choice when ecology is concerned.

Cattle farming is a large industry within the European Union. In the EU, the animals receive probably the best treatment in the world and leather processing is covered by strict standards - European material is absolutely safe for use by humans and consists no toxic residues from tanning.

An important aspect should be mentioned here:

Leather is one of byproducts of meat production. In the European Union, over 99% of cowhides are sourced from animals farmed for meat.

Up to 99% of water used in leather production is water that has to be used to raise the animal. Tanning itself is a much more water-friendly process. The CO2 emissions follow a similar pattern - if we include farming in leather production, then our share is only 0.44% of total emissions in the UE. If we removed leather processing from the farming process, the result would not change drastically.

It would be uneconomic to raise animals only for their hides - they represent only about 5% of weight of an adult cow and about 3% of its value. Meat is the remaining 93%.

In 2018 alone, the European Union produced 8 million tonnes of beef, with leather being a byproduct. Leather production is in a way a form of recycling as disposal of animal waste is not that easy.

Processing waste parts of the animals is much more sensible than producing a completely new thing, using fossil fuel (polymer eco-leather). Until we stop or limit consumption of meat, production of leather products (while observing the appropriate standards) is the more ecological solution.

It is also the more environmentally-friendly option when we think about disposal of finished products. Even if we ignore the effective life of a product and the possibility of its renovation, the difference in decomposition times is significant.

Under proper conditions, smaller parts of vegetable-tanned leather may decompose in only half a year. Larger products from chrome-tanned leather - like shoes or a briefcase - decompose in about 25 years.

To compare: polyurethane - one of the most popular substitutes of leather - needs 500 years to decompose. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) is even worse - it takes 1000 years to degrade into micro-plastic, which is extremely dangerous for many living organisms. It never fully disintegrates.

In Sartolane, we take all due steps to ensure that all leather we utilize, comes from safe and verified European sources and to ensure that our products will be used for a really long time without any need for replacements.

Further down we present how we make our products and how we choose our partners. Click there.

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