Through the Nera Tanning brand, last year the Dutch company Smit & Zoon launched Zeology, a new tanning system defined as “revolutionary”, first developed on leathers destined for the automotive segment, notoriously one of the most demanding of the target sectors. The consensus obtained pushed the company to expand the experimentation to all other types of leather applications. Numerous tanneries from all over the world, including the most important Italian groups, are currently testing Zeology in their production plants.
“We are extremely proud of what we have achieved by developing Zeology – the top management explains -. This tanning solution is the turning point that does not compromise the performance of leather. It is chrome-free, heavy-metal free and aldehyde-free; it is also easy to implement. It offers the environmental benefits of a sustainable alternative to chrome and glutaraldehyde tanning, ensuring reliable and consistent quality of tanned material”.


THE NEW STANDARD
Due to its effective and sustainable features, according to Smit & Zoon this new tanning system is destined to become the new industry standard. “The market is showing great interest and our Zeology partners are in an advanced experimentation phase in the use of leather tanned in this way also for a number of leather goods items”.
The combination of sustainability and superior performance levels of the finished leather is what makes the Zeology technology truly unique compared to traditional and alternative tanning agents. The company explains that “Zeo White”, the intermediate leather product obtained, is unequalled in terms of tight grain, physical properties, lightfastness and heat-resistance. Moreover, the brilliance of its white allows you to create clear and brilliant colours as never before.
To deepen all the scientific and applicative aspects, Smit & Zoon worked on the development of Zeology by collaborating with over 25 external partners, including independent research institutes, external laboratories, suppliers, brands and various experts. The close collaboration with an important group of leading tanneries for the validation and implementation of the process was even more crucial.
Smit & Zoon turns the spotlight also on another theme, that is the degree of biodegradability of intermediate Zeo White which has passed the tests both for biodisintegration (it becomes quickly compostable) and bioassimiliation (which concerns the positive effect on plant growth of the deteriorated product in the soil).

BIODEGRADABILITY

Specifically talking about the concept of biodegradability of leather, which is becoming increasingly important in a circular economy perspective, Smit & Zoon recently organised a digital masterclass where, among other things, the importance of launching in-depth studies on the subject was highlighted, analysing in particular the aspects related to the end of life of leather goods. On this occasion, the CEO Hans van Haarst invited all the experts in the supply chain to collaborate, as the complete circularity of leather and its products is a common goal of the entire leather sector: “No one has all the answers yet, but together we can take many steps to make leather an increasingly sustainable material.

A moment of the masterclass dedicated to the biodegradability of leather 
On the left the compost deriving from a leather tanned with zeolite, on the right the residue of a leather tanned in a traditional way that is not compostable