The truth about tanningThe sector needs proven scientific truths to respond to pressures from the market
In addition to new research lines, the tanning industry needs solid and proven scientific evidence to counterbalance partial and misleading information circulating on the market and causing confusion among operators and consumers. Which processes are the eco-friendliest, which ones produce less waste, which ones consume less resources? To clarify these issues, at the last Lineapelle held in February 2018, the UNIC (Unione Nazionale Industria Conciaria) organised an important international conference entitled “Tanning and Chemicals” moderated by the general secretary of Cotance, Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, which was attended by tanneries, research institutes, chemists and fashion brands.
Many ideas for reflection emerged during the conference. Elisabetta Scaglia, from the Environment and Research Department of UNIC announced an upcoming project to compare the impact of tanning with and without chrome, which the Italian tanning association is developing in collaboration with SSIP, purification companies, tanneries, chemists and universities, including the Polytechnic Institute of Milan and the Bocconi University. This extended study seeks to understand which tanning system is more sustainable, the results of which are expected in a few months. In particular, Professor Maurizio Masi of the Polytechnic Institute of Milan is conducting interesting research into an alternative tanning process based on low water consumption using electric fields, also known as “intensified tanning” which considerably reduces times.
Researchers have clear ideas, however. Biagio Naviglio, head of R&D at the Stazione Sperimentale della Pelle e delle Materie Concianti (the Italian Leather Research Institute), explained that his team conducted various research studies that compared different types of tanning: wet-white, chrome and vegetable. “At present, chrome tanning is still the most advantageous system from all points of view,” said Naviglio, announcing that a new LCA study on leather is about to start soon.
The conference naturally discussed the specifications. An overall perspective: “We abide by specifications of law, but we propose the most stringent ones on suppliers to stimulate research,” declared a representative from Louis Vuitton. “By setting more stringent standards, we hope to help the industry, through a profitable cooperation, to find innovative methods to respect them”.
The chemical industry is very clear on this issue: “There is a lot of confusion on the market. Our goal is to work together to make scientific interests prevail, opening up and comparing ourselves with other sectors,” said Ernesto Pisoni, President of AICC who presented a new video dedicated to chemicals, appropriately entitled “Less is More”.