From pre-tanning to finishing, conventional leather tanning requires about 15 steps, which produce enormous amounts of wastewater and pollutants, including sulfides, chlorides, sulfates and other compounds. The new approach flips the process around and eliminates some of the steps, which results in multiple and substantial production efficiencies, the researchers say.
In the new process, for instance, prior to tanning, the skins are treated with chemicals normally used after tanning is completed. According to the researchers, the reverse process produces leather that is comparable to conventional tanning, but requires 42 percent less time, 54 percent fewer chemicals, 42 percent less energy, 65 percent less water and cuts emissions of key pollutants by up to 79 percent. The results were achieved without changing chemicals or using new ones, the researchers note.
In addition to costing less and being “greener” than conventional tanning, the reverse process is “easy-to-adopt” and could help the global industry overcome emerging environmental and economic concerns, the researchers conclude.
*Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. For more information about green chemistry and the Green Chemistry Institute, visit: www.chemistry.org/greenchemistryinstitute
The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
The online version of the research paper cited above was initially published Dec. 23 on the journal’s Web site. Journalists can arrange access to this site by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the contact person for this release.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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