COTANCE, the European federation of tanners, has written an open letter to the European Patent Office (EPO) in response to the inclusion of Piñatex, a material made from pineapple fiber waste, in a contest for the European Inventor Award organized by EPO, where the Piñatex patent is registered. Carmen Hijosa, founder of Piñatex, is a finalist and the public vote will take place on June 17, 2021. The stance starts from the fact that Mrs Hijosa declared that the tanning industry is toxic, presenting Piñatex as an alternative to leather without having the characteristics.
Below, the letter of Cotance
Not like that, Mrs Hijosa!
Tanners recycle a residue of red meat production since the eve of time. No cattle, no sheep, no goat is slaughtered for its hide or skin and if they are not further valorised, they become hazardous waste and a sanitary risk. Mrs Hijosa, founder of Ananas Aram (Piñatex), cannot claim to be doing in this respect anything new or better while it still is to be demonstrated from an LCA standpoint if the elimination of biomass does not trigger increased needs of fertilisers. The information that can be found on Internet indicates that the environmental effects of pineapple plantations are reputedly heavy pesticide-, herbicide- and fertiliser-driven monocultures. This is the eco-system which is providing her the raw materials for Piñatex. In terms of land use, one can read that the extension of productive area irremediably goes at the expense of tropical rainforest, biodiversity and clean waters for the people.
But by claiming that leather/tanning is “toxic”, Mrs Hijosa has crossed a red line. The European leather industry cannot tolerate such shameless public vilification.
99% of all sustainability claims are fake. False comparative assertions are already prohibited in the EU in B2B relations as they are capable of producing a heavy damage to competing businesses and workers. Moreover, COTANCE expects much from the EU’s “Sustainability Claims” regulation announced in the Green Deal.
The organised leather industry, in particular in Europe invests in sustainability over decades and, when tanners compete for orders every day such negative propaganda hurts.
European tanners deplore profoundly that Mrs Hijosa is promoting Piñatex as a replacement for leather, pouring slander over the tanning industry and defaming a legitimate economic sector which creates wealth and jobs sustainably in many countries in the world. Manufacturers, don’t they promote their products by pointing at their intrinsic qualities?
Well, Piñatex claims to have the same performance as leather.
The material was recently analysed by FILK’s in a scientific paper. It reports to be a non-woven fabric made of pineapple leaf fibres and PLA (polylactic acid); coated with pigmented resin or over-moulded with a high-strength PUR film. It has less tensile strength than leather and a worse breathability index. FILK found even harmful DIBP plasticizer in it. Mrs Hijosa will possibly never market Piñatex as a replacement of plastic-based substitutes for leather probably because Piñatex cannot claim to be plastic-free and people are increasingly acknowledging the adverse environmental effects of plastic.
Nonetheless, Piñatex has been selected for competing in a contest for the European Inventor Award organised by the European Patent Office (EPO), where the Piñatex -patent is registered. Mrs Hijosa has made it to become one of the finalists. Now, a people’s vote on June 17, 2021, can bring her the laurels. Winning like this, demerits the victory.
But EPO is also to blame for not checking whether the claims made by candidates are correct? After all, EPO’s platform provides candidates significant exposure and a public body’s duty is to veil over impartiality.
Europe’s leather industry calls on the EPO to censor false and illegal comparative assertions made by the contest participants for avoiding greater damage to the victims, in particular in the leather industry.
Brussels, 17 May 2021