Tanning refers to the process in which an animal skin or hide is processed into durable, usable leather. The fashion industry should consider using vegetable tanned leather and rose-tanned leather as they have less impact on our environment when the tannins reach our rivers and lakes. Not all manufacturers of fine leather are conscientious about our environment.
There are several ways through which leather can be handled and worked. Depending on the tanning method used, different flexibility levels are achieved. The three main methods of tanning include vegetable tanning, animal tanning, and chrome tanning. The most popular of these methods is chrome tanning. The animal tanning can be mixed with the vegetable or animal.
Typically, the tanning process is performed in fullers which are large basins of water. In this case, the leather is soaked for several hours. It is important to note that the animal hide or skin which is utilized in the leather industry comes from animals which have been killed by the beef production industry. Therefore, the leather industry tends to collect the byproducts of the beef industry.
Vegetable tanned leather results from the vegetable tanning method. The vegetable tanning process is historical and very traditional. It began in the middle ages but it is among the most popular tanning processes in the leather industry. This type of leather is environmentally-friendly since there are no chemical components which are added during tanning.
Vegetable-tanned leather takes about 30 days to be ready making vegetable tanning method the longest method of the tanning methods. The vegetable tanning process which leads to the vegetable tanned leather uses plant-based elements including oak bark, fruits, and small tree branches. As such, even if the water used in the process is discharged into rivers and lakes, there are less or no consequences to the environment. Additionally, the tanning process uses the plant powder which is less harmful to workers.
Rose-tanned leather results from the use of pure rose oil during tanning. It varies from leather obtained from the vegetable tanning as rose oils replace the emulsified oils and vegetable oils. It is considered as the most valuable type of leather in the world. This is because of its rarity as well as the labor-intensive tanning process used to prepare it.
Examples of Other Tanning Methods
It is important to make a distinction between vegan leather from the vegetable tanned leather. Vegan leather is a petroleum-based textile popularly known as the polyurethane or PVC. It is mainly utilized in the fashion industry. The vegan leather is harmful to the environment since it is a derivative from the oil industry, which is a polluting industry.
Producing the vegan leather is harmful as it has been associated with cancers and other diseases. It, therefore, has a long-term harmful effect on the environment and human beings. Despite the harmful effects of the vegan leather on the environment, it can be produced from the recycled plastics. It is, therefore, a more ecological alternative to the plastic industry.
In conclusion, the tanning method should use natural raw materials as this will ensure that it does not pollute the environment. Vegetable tanned leather and rose tanned leather value natural materials thus minimizing the damage that the fashion industry causes to the environment.
CP Slippers will produce a step-by-step look at producing leather in our next instalment of the History of Leather Collection