The 47th AICC National Congress, held last 11 October at the headquarters of the new Italian Leather Research Institute Pelli in Pozzuoli, was an opportunity to compare the points of view of chemists, tanners and technology suppliers with respect to sustainability issues. “The circular economy – said the president of leather chemists Mariano Mecenero – is an issue that sees us all involved and we, as technicians, must further raise the bar to change the opinion of those who still view the tanning industry with suspicion”. For AICC’s number one, it must also be remembered that every day in the world a thousand trucks of raw hides are loaded which, if not used and transformed by the tanning industry, would end up in landfills as simple waste. “But we obviously need to do more and enhance all our waste even better, from fleshings to shaving waste”, added Mecenero.
The chairman of the Italian Leather Research Institute, Graziano Balducci, spoke of a real green supply chain in which the tanning industry is inserted, recalling the numbers of the sector composed of 1,200 tanneries for 18 thousand employees and a turnover of over 5 billion euro. The Tuscan tanner has appealed to the unity of intentions in the supply chain because it is necessary to “defend these numbers that make us leaders in Europe and in the world with the cohesion and transparency of all the actors involved. So far our successes have been linked to the product, now we need to focus more on process innovation, and remind the world of the great results achieved in recent years in terms of emission and waste reductions and the use of environmental resources”.
Biagio Naviglio, head of research at the Italian Leather Research Institute, spoke about the recovery of tanned solid residues, illustrating the numerous possible uses of tannery waste, starting from proteins, in agriculture, construction and other sectors. Francesco Troisi and Maurizio Maggioni of UNPAC (the Italian producer association of chemical-tanning auxiliaries) instead reported on the many ongoing activities on the sustainability front. In particular, Unpac is working on the study of the LCA (life cycle) of tanning chemicals in order to calculate their environmental footprint and as well as collaborating with ZDHC in the elaboration of the new MRSL (the list of substances subject to restriction), it is protagonist at the UNI Commission to set up regulations for the sector.
The point of view of the manufacturers of leather machines came from the director of ASSOMAC Roberto Vago, who presented a beautiful report on the future scenarios of the leather fashion system, reiterating the need to give new life to solid wastes that represent the real problem of the planet. For its part, Assomac has addressed the issue of sustainability by developing a special protocol that has resulted in the “Green Plate”, a voluntary certification that measures the Carbon Footprint of each machine. Also Primiano De Rosa of UNIC spoke of the environmental footprint, recalling the long journey that led to the development of the PEF, the new European instrument for measuring the carbon footprint of leather that is currently being tested in tanneries.
Both UNPAC’s president Marco Frediani and Elisabetta Scaglia, head of the Environment and Research department at UNIC, spoke in the final round table of the sustainability cost problem: unfortunately the user is still reluctant to pay more for sustainable leather and this ends up weighing down the balance of virtuous companies. But we must of course move forward in the research and innovation of processes and products, to ward off marginalisation, because the market demands go all in this direction and are increasingly rapid and more pressing.