Masterclass: Biodegradability of Leather

Let’s talk Biodegradability

  • Can a leather bag, a leather shoe or a leather chair be biodegradable?
  • What is the difference between biodegradability and compostability?
  • What test methods should be used for biodegradability?

There are many questions about biodegradability. And, at the same time, quite some uncertainties. On 25 February, during our Biodegradability Masterclass, we have shared our knowledge about biodegradability – inclusive test results – and provide clarity and transparency in facts, figures and chemistry behind leather biodegradability.

The masterclass has taken place! Of course you can also, if you have not done yet, download our whitepaper.

Watch the replay of the masterclass.

Download the Q&A

We have gathered the frequently asked questions and answered them in this document. Fill in the form to receive the pdf in your mailbox.

From hide to shoe. How can leather stay biodegradable?

A natural and unprocessed hide is biodegradable. To use a hide or a skin for a leather item, for example for a car seat or a handbag, it needs to be processed. This process is called the tanning process. What does this tanning process do with the biodegradability and compostability of the leather good? We will discuss this question and more!

The importance of Leather Biodegradability

Ocean plastic pollution, or the “Plastic Soup” as we know it, has highlighted just how important it is that materials can degrade back into the natural environment. The end-of-life of a leather article is therefor a vital topic to understand and to talk about. It is also a subject that leather manufacturers and fashion houses are interested in because consumers are increasingly demanding eco-friendly leather. The leather industry is taking the responsibility for the next generation to drive more sustainability in the leather value chain. Biodegradability is an important part in this matter.

Do you already want to know more? Download the whitepaper ‘Biodegradability and disintegration of leather’ for in-depth information and source references.

Download Whitepaper

For who?

Everybody who wants to learn about Biodegradability is welcome to join. In specific this Masterclass is very valuable for:

  • Fashion, textile, automotive, aviation, furniture, shoes & leather goods brands
  • Leather technicians and manufactures
  • Designers
  • Tanneries
  • OEM’s

Are you ready to make the leather value chain more sustainable? Let’s get the conversation started! Participation is free of charge.

Your speakers

The Masterclass will be hosted by Wouter Hendriksen (R&D Manager, Nera) and Hans van Haarst (CEO, Smit & Zoon). Ellen De Waele is our moderator and will ensure that as many questions as possible will be answered. We are pleased to announce that Iris van Wanrooij from EMMA Safety Shoes will join the panel.

Wouter Hendriksen, R&D Manager, Nera Tanning

As R&D manager for Nera, together with a broad variety of specialist, Wouter focusses on bringing sustainable innovations from vision to reality. In this process product quality, performance and a positive impact for the entire leather value leather chain are the driving forces. This goes much further than engineering new chemistry, it involves understanding and answering to the needs of tanneries, brands and the end consumer.

Ellen De Waele, Moderator

Ellen is an accomplished presenter and passionate actress. She knows better than anyone how to transport the audience with her spontaneity and smile. She has proven several times that she feels comfortable speaking to knowledgeable groups. She lives with only one goal: Do it with passion or not at all.


Iris van Wanrooij, Program Manager CSR, EMMA Safety Footwear

As Program Manager Corporate Social Responsibility, Iris is responsible for the sustainability program for EMMA Safety Footwear. EMMA has been affiliated with the Swedish multinational Hultafors Group since last year. The sustainability program includes good working conditions and minimal risks for people and the environment in the supply chain, a sustainable shoe collection, our own factory with the lowest possible CO2 emissions and the recycling of worn safety shoes.

Hans van Haarst, CEO Smit & Zoon

Hans van Haarst, a Chemical Engineer by education is the CEO of Smit & Zoon Group. Before joining Smit & Zoon he progressed his international career in the chemical industry with several blue chip companies in leadership and management positions. His view on business strategy is anchored in the principles of Purpose, People, Planet and Profit and he leads his organisation accordingly. The inception and development of the newly introduced Smit tanning solution is based on these same principles.

General information

The Biodegradability Masterclass will take place on Thursday 25 February from 14:00 to 15:00 (CET +1 hour).

Participation is free of charge.

The masterclass will be held in English.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the topic of Biodegradability or this masterclass.

Whitepaper: Biodegradability and disintegration of leather

Download the Whitepaper 'Biodegradability and disintegration of leather'.

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Biodegradability of Zeo White

The biodisintegration of Zeo White is found to be rapid and results in almost complete compostability and aqueous biodegradation.

Leather tanning

The leather making process: step by step

How is leather made? How to source the most sustainable leather? An overview.