AICC, Italian Association of Leather Chemists, is working hard to organise the III EuroCongress IULTCS Vicenza 2022. The goal is to create a technical-scientific high-level event capable of bringing together at least 400 delegates from Europe and beyond. The appointment is set from 18 to 20 September 2022 at the Palladio Theater of the Fiera di Vicenza Congress Centre, a functional site with over 700 seats, ready to host researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs and leather technicians who will take turns at the microphone to present the most recent technical-scientific advances related to tanning processing.
The title of the Congress “Rinascimento: The Next Leather Generation” underlines the organisers’ willingness to contribute to the relaunch of the sector, starting with the dissemination of the results of the latest research by the leading chemical tanning experts, all committed to the search for ever greater sustainability. In fact, in Vicenza we will talk about the development of increasingly green and performing chemical products, technological innovation of tanning processes, new and more accurate methods of analysing leather to detect the presence of unwanted components, circular economy for the reduction of waste and enhancement of by-products.
We talk about the objectives of the Congress with Roberto Mariano Mecenero, president of AICC and asked him also to comment on the difficult moment in the sector after two years of pandemic.

Roberto Mariano Mecenero, president of AICC

AICC obtained the organisation of the IULTCS EuroCongress, an honour but also a great responsibility for the Italian association.
“Having obtained from the IULTCS the opportunity to organise the EuroCongress 2022 was certainly a great honour for the Italian Association of Leather Chemists. It is of course also a great responsibility but as “grown-ups” it is right to assume one’s responsibilities; and I believe that the AICC has grown enough to face even big commitments. In recent years we have trained with many Courses and Seminars organised by us in the various districts, as well as with local and national conventions. We have a good motivated and prepared team that is working hard for this important event, supported by the other key supply chain associations, such as Unpac, Assomac, Unic and the Venetian Leather District. We have found an excellent and fruitful collaboration that is finding very positive responses in the various areas in which we are currently moving. And then, let me say, that the recent meeting we were lucky enough to have with the Holy Father, in the course of the Private Audience that he granted to the Italian Association of Leather Chemists on 29 January, inspired and motivated us even more”.
 
How is the organisation of the Congress proceeding?
“The organisational machine is well underway even if the complexities are not trivial, but the various specific Commissions established (Organisation, Logistics, Communication and Science) are effectively moving independently and, at the same time, synergistic to bring their own work group to achieve the set goals. Each Commission has different times and paths but the commitment I find is to present, at continental level but also beyond, an image of the Italian tanning industry at the top of world excellence in leather production; and this is true for tanning, chemical products, tannery machinery industries and I hope also for scientific research and technological innovation. I believe that Italy is second to none in these fields, even if we are not always able to express and sell this at best. Nevertheless, we must be proud of the results achieved and, at the same time, work hard to do even better”.
 
What goals have you set yourself in terms of attendance?
“Right from the start, we set ourselves the goal of reaching the number of 400 participants at the IULTCS EuroCongress 2022. It is an ambitious goal, we realise it also in consideration of the fact that the penultimate World Cup held in Dresden counted 440 participatory presences, while the last one, that of Addis Ababa 2021, does not apply due to the restrictions related to Covid and dangerous situation in which the country finds itself. We hope to get there but above all we hope to send a stimulating and positive message to the technicians of the sector and also to the students of our tannery schools, whom we will invite to the event. In the next future they will be the ones to take up the baton for the technical guidance of the tanneries. An event of this type should communicate that our tanning sector has a broader scope than the restricted context in our valleys. Leather is, directly or indirectly, used in many areas and in all nations. Feeling a wave of international interest can thus only do well and be a driving force also as a proposal for younger generations”.

How is the tanning sector doing today, after two years of pandemic? What forecasts you can make for the leather sector this year?
“The tanning sector is in a difficult situation, as are more or less all productive sectors. The problems we are experiencing are transversal because the incredible and hallucinating price increases that all the production realities are facing relating to energy, transport, chemical products, purification, iron and steel, wood, paper, and so on blew away a lot of our certainties and all of our production costs. And this forces us to work in a situation of uncertainty in processing costs that it is practically impossible to constantly update. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t think it is possible to make serious predictions. Today we are at the mercy of the waves that are shaking the boats that represent our companies. We must be able to withstand the shocks of this difficult moment and be ready for when the sea has calmed down and, with calm waters, there will be a smoother and more effective navigation”.
 
Leather is increasingly facing the competition of alternative materials. What do you think about this?
“Leather suffers of course the competition from alternative materials. Bad communication has certainly hurt us. We know well that we work a precious gift that nature has given us and that it will continue to give us, as long as humans continue to eat meat. They have always done so, and despite recent vegan trends, I believe that most people will still continue to do so. So there is this wonderful waste to be valued and we know how, better than others. I think that in the end leather will still be a winner due to its unique and exclusive material features, with extraordinary peculiarities, which in the hands of skilled artisans or industries that love natural products, will always be able to give exclusive and unique sensations and emotions. I don’t think plastic will ever replace leather! Leather is perhaps the oldest example of a circular economy; for several centuries the tanner had been doing what today is proposed as a concept that needs to be applied to respect the environment. The tannery has been doing it for millennia! Today we just need to improve, processing skins in a more respectful way of the world that surrounds us; and that our children or grandchildren have the right to receive livable”.
 
What are the next goals of AICC?
“Our Italian Association of Leather Chemists is preparing with enthusiasm for this extraordinary event of the EuroCongress 2022 IULTCS not without forgetting the statutory purpose of our Association, that is the dissemination of the technical-scientific culture of leather and hides, both towards the associates and in favour of schools in the sector. This is the North Star that guides all our actions. As for the future, in September there will be the renewal of the AICC Board of Directors and the next objectives will have to be defined by the new Board of Directors. I see within the Association excellent professionals who will be able to manage and guide it optimally in the near future. And I wish lively that they can do even better than the Board of Directors of this mandate”.