Natural Leathers from Natural Materials:  Progressing toward a New Arena in Leather Processing

Other literature type English OPEN
Saravanabhavan, Subramani ; Thanikaivelan, Palanisamy ; Rao, Jonnalagadda Raghava ; Nair, Balachandran Unni ; Ramasami, Thirumalachari (2004)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1021/es034554o.s002
  • Subject: Biophysics | Microbiology | Space Science | Physical Sciences not elsewhere classified | bod | leather industry | fiber opening | leather processing subject | method | load | tds | tanning | ts

Globally, the leather industry is currently undergoing radical transformation due to pollution and discharge legislations. Thus, the leather industry is pressurized to look for cleaner options for processing the raw hides and skins. Conventional methods of pre-tanning, tanning and post-tanning processes are known to contribute more than 98% of the total pollution load from the leather processing. The conventional method of the tanning process involves the “do−undo” principle. Furthermore, the conventional methods employed in leather processing subject the skin/hide to a wide variation in pH (2.8−13.0). This results in the emission of huge amounts of pollution loads such as BOD, COD, TDS, TS, sulfates, chlorides and chromium. In the approach illustrated here, the hair and flesh removal as well as fiber opening have been achieved using biocatalysts at pH 8.0, pickle-free natural tanning employing vegetable tannins, and post-tanning using environmentally friendly chemicals. Hence, this process involves dehairing, fiber opening, and pickle-free natural tanning followed by ecofriendly post-tanning. It has been found that the extent of hair removal and opening up of fiber bundles is comparable to that of conventionally processed leathers. This has been substantiated through scanning electron microscopic analysis and softness measurements. Performance of the leathers is shown to be on par with conventionally chrome-tanned leathers through physical and hand evaluation. The process also exhibits zero metal (chromium) discharge and significant reduction in BOD, COD, TDS, and TS loads by 83, 69, 96, and 96%, respectively. Furthermore, the developed process seems to be economically viable.
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