Is leather a by product?

Leather, a by-product from the meat industry

In itself, leather is a sustainable product by origin because it is a by-product from the meat industry. The leather industry is creating a unique material from a skin that would otherwise mostly end up as landfill. As long as people on this planet will be eating meat, there will be hides and skins.

Lose it or use it…

Meat consumptions causes 7 millions tonnes of bovine hides yearly. The hide accounts for a small amount of the total value of the animal. Therefore the hide is a by-product of the meat industry. 7 million tonnes of hides is an average of roughly 1.000 trucks per day.

How do we handle this by-product? We can either lose it or use it. By loosing these hides for example by burning or disposing the hides as land fill would have a massive negative impact on the environment. Instead of causing environmental damage Nera, part of Royal Smit & Zoon, promotes the use of hides and turning them into beautiful leather. As a result, leather is contributing to a better environment, provided that the leather is manufactured in the most sustainable way.

What is a by-product?

Output other than the principal product(s) of an industrial process, such as sawdust or woodchips generated in processing lumber. Unlike joint-products, by-products have low value in comparison with the principal product(s) and may be discarded or sold either in their original state, or after further processing. The hide or skin from animals (mainly bovine, ovine) is a by-product from the food.

The sustainability of leather is a hot topic in for example the fashion industry, which is encountering a selection of alternative materials and sometimes confusing messaging. Fact is that properly made and sourced leather is a truly sustainable material. Leather is:

  • made from a by-product (recycle) and
  • a long-lasting (durable) material, two very important aspects of sustainability.

Leather can be a sustainable, circular and biodegradable material when using the right chemicals.

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