Is leather a sustainable material?
As leather is made from animal skin and not from man-made material such as plastic. Is it better for the environment?
So is leather a sustainable material? Well the answer to this question is not a straight forward one. When leather is produced slowly and natural tannins are used then it is truly a sustainable product. This process is used at J&FJ Bakers in Colyton, Devon. They are the last tannery in Britain to tan leather with this method. Here the leather can take approximately two years to produce. The hides come from animals destined for the meat trade. The tannins used in this process are from oak bark, any offcuts of leather that cannot be used are shredded and compressed to produce pellets to fuel their bio mass boiler.
Vegetable tanned leather is biodegradable, it is an extremely durable material which has a longevity that far out weighs other products.
Unfortunately not all leather is produced in this way, around 80% of leather is tanned using a chemical called chromium. This leather is used for shoes, clothes and fast fashion handbags. The process is very quick and can be completed in one day. Chrome tanned leather is not biodegradable and cannot be recycled.
Really we should be thinking about the longevity of leather by exploring it’s uses. Consideration should be taken when buying a leather product about the use. When you buy a quality leather item it will last for years. Choose a handmade leather handbag and you won’t be disappointed , this will be a heirloom that can be passed down to the next generation.If we truly care about leather as a sustainable material we should consider our purchases and care for them well.
In the words of Vivienne Westwood : Buy Less, Choose Well, Make it last.