Plant based alternative to leather

By: Salla Tanskanen

 

As fashionable as leather is, it unfortunately is not exactly environmentally friendly. The leather processing industry creates considerable amounts of solid waste and industrial sewage. For example from a metric ton of raw hides only a mere 200 kg of actual usable material is gained The rest 800kg are just waste materials, mainly proteins and fat, but also waste water and sludge which contain pollutants, unused chemicals, leather proteins and products of hide and skin degradation. Not only is there a significant amount of waste, but also to treat the leather the consumption of chemicals is high.

 

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Piñatex

 

Of course there are artificial substitutes for leather, but they are usually made of plastics, which are not recyclable or biodegradable. The specific look and feel of leather is also difficult to replicate. However a new innovative material called Piñatex succeeds in this quite well, and above all it is also environmentally friendly. The natural, sustainable, non-woven material made of pineapple leaf fibres is developed by Ananas Anam. In order to acquire the pineapple leaves, the company collaborates with pineapple farmers in the Philippines. They provide the leaves from their crops and also process them into fibres that will be used to manufacture Piñatex. Since the leaves are a by-product of their crops, there is no additional energy or funds needed to grow the material. In a process called decortication, the fibres are separated from the bio-mass, which is converted into organic fertilizer or bio-gas. The fibers are then dried and finally processed into a nonwoven base material for Piñatex. This part of the production also generates additional income to the Filipino farming communities. The finishing touches are made in Spain.

 

10

Separating the fibres from the pineapple leaves

 

21

Manufacturing the nonwoven base material

 

The final product, Piñatex, is strong, but soft, light and flexible. It offers a versatile range of uses from fashion and accessories to furnishing, car and aeronautic industries. It is vegan but for now not completely bio-degradable. Ananas Anam claims to be working on a fully bio-degradable version, aiming to have it on the market in 2017. At the moment they are still using petroleum-based binders in order to accommodate all market requirements, so the best method for end-of-life use for the material is to re-use it for example in the making of geotextiles.

 

In general Piñatex is clearly better for the environment than conventionally manufactured leather or plastic faux-leather. It is mostly created from re-claimed waste material with ethical means, considering the community it is acquired from. Rather than creating significant amounts of waste, like the current processing of leather, it is actually utilising it. Whenever the fully bio-degradable version of the leather substitute is developed to a consumer appropriate level, Piñatex will be an excellent alternative to leather.

 

credits-designed-and-made-by-smith-matthias-1

Designed and made by Smith Matthias.

 

Sources:

Ananas Anam – Piñatex

Leather Manufacturing

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