Real leather or artificial? What is actually more environmentally friendly?

by - April 17, 2022


You will be surprised, but the answer is not so obvious. Conscious consumption is a trend that is rapidly gaining momentum. What are his fans doing? Of course, first of all, they refuse plastic, natural fur and leather. But will it benefit the planet? Let's figure it out.

The full cycle of any product consists of three stages: production, use, disposal. Let's talk about each step separately.


Production

Let's not dissemble, to make a bag made of genuine leather, you need the skin of an animal. And this is the main claim of environmentalists. But in the first place, the skin is a recyclable material that remains from the processing of meat. If you throw it away, there is no use, it will simply perish in a landfill. Skinning is a complex process. First, it is salted. This is a kind of conservation, it is needed to dry the material. Then washed and cleaned of fat.

To make the material soft, but durable, chemicals are often used. However, the value of a quality skin is that the fewer steps from the source material to the finished product, the better. Yes, and you can sell good leather for more, so for manufacturers and craftsmen, reducing the processing process is beneficial.

Today, experts estimate the world market for artificial leather at $25 million. This figure is expected to double in five years. The popularity of this material provokes the opening of more and more new industries and factories. Quite a few varieties of such substitutes have already been invented. The most popular are leatherette, vinyl, and eco-leather.

Most often, artificial materials consist of a base, such as knitwear or paper. And already polymers are applied to them, such as rubber glue, latex, plastic compound. Many artificial materials are based on polyurethane. It is a petroleum-based polymer. Another polymer that is also often used is polyvinyl chloride, so that it is plastic, plasticizers are added, for example, phthalic acid ester. I mean, it's basically plastic. The level of toxicity of such production can be compared with the processing of petroleum products, hydrocarbons are used in the creation, their production releases greenhouse gasses. They provoke excessive heating of the planet, and, consequently, climate change.

The environmental hazard persists even after production. Moreover, representatives of world brands started talking about this problem. The fact is that microplastics enter the environment from the surface of synthetic leather. Its particles enter the ocean, and then into the organisms of marine life.

Let's talk separately about recycled leather. Its production is as follows. They take scraps of genuine leather, leather waste and grind into powder. Then all this is mixed with synthetic resin, pressed into a thin layer, dried and aired to get rid of the chemical smell. It is not surprising that a large number of resins in the composition can cause allergies in humans.



Usage

Dealt with production. And here bags and accessories hit the counter. Yes, their prices will vary. Faux leather products are temptingly inexpensive. When compared with the cost of natural materials, the difference can be dozens of times. However, it depends on the brand you choose. Chamois Leather made from sheep leather will serve you for years and is definitely worth its price. But remember how long you wore a leatherette bag? For sure, this is a maximum of a year and a half.

No matter how carefully you carry such a bag, the corners inevitably begin to rub, and the fabric is visible in the places of the seams. And in some places at all, the coating is first separated from the base, and then comes off in whole layers. The service life of such a product may be even shorter. For example, it can crack quite quickly from frost. It is almost impossible to reanimate bags or gloves made of artificial leather, even a painted over scratch will still be visible.

Of course, a product made of genuine leather can also be damaged. But today there are many ways to repair them, even if you do not contact specialists. At home, scratches are covered with shoe polish, beeswax and olive oil.


Disposal

So, we have come to the final cycle of anything. She is outdated, frayed or just tired of you. It's time to throw it away. And here is the main pitfall of artificial materials. The terms of decomposition of leatherette, on average, 40-50 years. In addition, eco-leather releases phthalic acid in this process.

Phthalates are used in many industries. For example, in window frames, pipes, car upholstery and cosmetics. Yes, every second nail polish contains phthalates. Experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have calculated that 213 thousand tons of phthalates are produced every year in the world. The main danger is that these chemical compounds can accumulate in the body. In men, they inhibit the production of testosterone, in women they provoke breast cancer. Scientists from Bulgaria even suggested that it is phthalates that affect the development of asthma in children. In America and Europe, the use of these compounds in the manufacture of children's toys has already been banned. When phthalic acid decomposes and penetrates into the soil and water, and hence on the human table. The thought immediately arises, and if the artificial skin is not just thrown away, but recycled. Do not forget that this is a composite, synthetic material. Unfortunately, today, it is almost impossible to recycle such a material, because the material will have to be divided into its component parts, and this is a long and expensive process. For the same reason, many recycling plants refuse to accept Tetra Pak packaging and disposable coffee cups.

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