Tanning without using chrome is possible. Scientists and firms are proving it with the first project dedicated to sustainability of tanning. The project is co-financed by the European Commission through the Life programme (Environment and Resource Efficiency) using innovation to quickly integrate the market.
“Getting rid of chrome and chemicals in tanning entails avoiding the contamination of water, reducing significantly the costs of waste treatment, and opening new opportunities for their re-use” explains Valentina Beghetto, head of the project and researcher at the Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
Beghetto and her team invented an innovative type of tanning that will be developed in the next three years thanks to the support of the leader firm of the project: GSC Group, a company from the city of Vicenza specialized in tanning products and tested at the tannery Pasubio. The water used in the tanning process will be treated and evaluated by the water treatment plan of Medio Chiampo.
Reducing water consumption and obtaining non contaminated waste are among the most relevant environmental and economic advantages benefitting to the tanneries using the new product instead of chrome.
Tanning is one of the many stages of leather production which uses overall one tonne of raw materials losing 750 kilograms of water and collagen. Decontaminating the waste would enable to re-use them. Collagene, for instance, is a key raw material for many other fields such as cosmetology.
The Green Organic Agents for Sustainable Tanneries (GOAST) will also involve researchers of Ca’ Foscari Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics and Department of Management, to respectively evaluate the environmental impact of leather’s cycle of life and study the socio-economic impact of innovation. Italy concentrates 60% of European production and 17% of global production for the car industry, fashion, shoes or interior design.