The AICC Veneto Conference held in Arzignano on last 26 November fulfilled its promises reflected in the title “Restart – Future – Innovation”. In fact, five important reports were presented on the stage of the Charlie Chaplin movie theater that allowed us to look up and hope for a less uncertain future thanks to technical-scientific progress and the prospect of new important investments in the purification field.
After the greetings of president Roberto Mariano Mecenero, who encouraged his colleagues of the supply chain to play as a team “because together we can do great things and 2022 can become the year of the sector’s relaunch”, the Conference got to the heart of the tasks with the report by Riccardo Pasquale (GSC Group) dedicated to the presentation of the LIFE GOAST Project results realised with the contribution of the European Commission. Started in July 2017 and concluded in December 2021, the project aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a metal free tanning technology, an alternative to chromium, to produce high quality leather, especially for the automotive sector. Goast technology – explained the speaker – is based on the use of a combination of different polymer-based compounds used following a specific application protocol. The resulting leather scraps, being free of chromium and other heavy metals, can be completely recycled. The results of the project have been judged very positive with overcoming challenges concerning the organic load increase which degrades slower, thus requiring more time.
The microphone was handed over to Nicolò Panarotto and Michele Vallarsa, two former students of ITS Arzignano Green Leather Manager course, now employed in local companies, who presented a work dedicated to “Sustainability in the Riviera phases”. The aim of the research was to demonstrate that with a new approach in the mechanical and chemical processing of the coast it is possible to reduce the polluting load. How? By trimming, green fleshing and splitting hides in order to lower (by 30%) the leather volume to be tanned and consequently the waste produced, reducing the quantities of chemical product, water and energy necessary for the process.
Gustavo Defeo (ARS Tinctoria) carried out a report entitled “Measuring the circularity of leather and alternative materials” in which he talked about the objectives of the European Green Deal and the need to be able to measure and compare sustainable materials. The researcher described the results of a comparative study he carried out on the upper of three shoes: one vegetarian, one produced with “apple leather” and one with metal-free leather with a mixed synthetic/vegetable process. The analyses carried out with the carbon 14 method have shown that the material of the first upper derives from 100% petroleum, the one in apple leather contains 80% of PU and 20% of organic waste, while the leather upper offers a bio content equal to 83%. Hence the need to get to the labelling of materials to break down false myths and offer more transparent information to consumers.
The intervention of Cesare Dal Monte (GER Elettronica) dedicated to traceability, explained how to integrate it into the tanning process to obtain reliable data in all processing phases, obtaining important advantages in terms of transparency and quality guarantee, but also “because – said the manager, quoting an ASSOMAC source – the data and their interpretation will be the lifeblood of the companies of the future”.
Equally interesting was the last report by Nicola Muraro, consultant of the Veneto Leather District, entitled “Tanning towards zero environmental impact” which suggests a change of pace by all operators to carry out an ambitious project centered on eight “construction sites” to achieve full sustainability among which the issues of circular tanning, carbon neutrality and clean chemistry stand out and for which the Veneto district aims to obtain funding related to the Recovery Plan. In this regard Muraro focused in particular on the need to redesign the local purification system which today shows all the limits of a plant designed over 50 years ago. The key point of the new system would be the separate management of the various types of sludge through the creation of individual pipes divided by type in order to facilitate the purification but also the recovery of proteins, chromium and salt.
At the end of the conference, President Mecenero nominated and invited the new “honorary” members of the Association to the stage. They are: Santo Mastrotto, Gilberto Adami, Biagio Siani, Biagio Naviglio, Giancarlo Falaschi and Giovanni Gola.