Thanks to an interesting public-private research project in the agro-food sector in collaboration with Smit & Zoon, the tanning sector takes a step forward on the road to ever greater sustainability. The Dutch research has shown that pectins obtained from the sugar beet pulp are excellent biological-based tanning agents. The outocome is part of a broader research around replacing petroleum-based ingredients with bio-based alternatives reducing CO2 emissions from production and reducing non-degradable and toxic substances. A project started at the beginning of 2018 and co-financed by the Dutch government together with a consortium of 4 public-private partners including, in addition to Smit, Cosun and Dalli-De Klok and Wageningen University & Research. Specifically, pectins obtained from sugar beet pulp serve as functional substitutes for non-degradable polymers in the wet production process at the end of leather production. Smit & Zoon sees this as an important extra step in the transition of the tanning sector towards a more sustainable production process: “Our goal is to be one of the leading companies towards a more sustainable supply chain in leather. We believe that on that road, even a drop makes a difference”.
Cosun, a supplier and processor of beet pulp, also finds it an interesting development. “This is clearly a win-win situation; we process our residual stream of beet pulp to the highest possible quality and the chemical industry has a sustainable solution – said Harry Raaijmakers, who is responsible for chemical expertise within Cosun R&D – “Replacing petrochemical raw materials with biobased alternatives is not only important for CO2 reduction, but also as the latter are biodegradable and less toxic”, explains Raaijmakers.
“Morevoer – add Smit & Zoon – these completely new ingredients contribute to the reduction of environmental and health risks, because there is no longer any exposure to certain chemicals”.
We recall that Smit & Zoon develops and produces leather chemicals used in the manufacturing of leather for well-known brands of shoes, cars, furniture, clothes, and bags. Its products include wet-end auxiliaries, fat liquors, syntans, dyes, and finishing chemicals.