Another step forward on the road to sustainability in the name of concreteness. We are talking about the possibility of certifying the biodegradability and compostability of leather, an all-Italian novelty that is attracting a strong interest in the sector and in the fashion world in general. Techa, a company created to industrialise product and process innovations derived from the research of Archa, a parent group that has been active in research and laboratory analysis for thirty years, developed the method for the certification process.
Responding to a growing demand of the tanning market and strong of the experience already gained in the plastics sector, Techa has worked for more than a year to develop a special ‘Technical Specification’ in order to clarify the features and environmental performance of a product, as there are many information available on the market. If a product, in leather or hide, is able to pass the tests provided for in the protocol and the related production process has certain sustainability features, that product may use the “Biodegradable Leather” label.
We talk about it with Mrs. Fabrizia Turchi, CEO of Archa, head of certifications. How did you achieve this? “We are one of the few accredited laboratories in the world to certify the biodegradability of plastics – explains Turchi – Starting from this experience and the specific technologies we have in our laboratories, we wanted to respond to a growing demand coming from the fashion world by developing a specific method to certify the biodegradability of leather. It has taken us more than a year because, as you can imagine, these are long and complex tests and there is still little legislation in this area. Our protocol was afterwards validated by the Department of Industrial Chemistry of the University of Pisa”.
What are the minimum requirements that skins must have to face your tests? “For obvious reasons, this certification process can only cover certain specific types, namely vegetable tanned leather and leather tanned with metal free systems. Chromium skin is excluded because its total chromium content exceeds the regulatory limits for possible destination to the industrial composting process”, explains Turchi.
After passing the tests and the analyses carried out by Techa, to complete the certification process intervenes a third party, Certiquality, which carries out a final audit of the company. A Tuscan tannery has already obtained the biodegradable leather certification and others are on their way to the finish line.
The labels given can be of two types: the Green Label certifies the biodegradability of leather or hide in industrial composting plants, the Blue Label certifies biodegradability in waste water intended for purification plants. This type of certification, however, does not just concern tanneries. “Manufacturers of chemical auxiliaries who develop leather items and want to advertise the fact that their line is functional to obtaining biodegradable items, expressed their deep interest in this”, says Turchi.
After certifying product sustainability, Techa is now working to also improve the process through the development of an environmental sensor network able to measure the polluting load of discharges and emissions, controlling therefore the sustainability of the process. “In this way we can monitor in real time what happens in the tannery. The sensor set, which is customised for each individual tannery, is an Industry 4.0 tool that gives a reading of what happens during the processing cycle, offering the possibility to control the current process and intervene immediately in case of problems”, concludes Turchi.

The laboratories of Techa
The Blue Label certifies the leather biodegradability in water 
The Green Label certifies the leather biodegradability in compost