Regenerating Bio-based Leather from Leather Waste

Leather production generates wastewater and harmful chemical residuals, such as chromium VI. HKRITA has developed a regenerated leather system that separates, categorises and recycles post-consumer leather products into useful raw materials for the manufacturing of new products. It is carried out in two steps, beginning with shredding a whole post-consumer leather product into pieces until leather fibres of high purity are obtained, and removing free chromium by transforming it into a soluble salt or complex compound. Then the separated leather fibres react with bio-based binders such as sugar or protein under mild conditions, and collagen fibres become interconnected and form a new leather. Regenerated leather obtained with such a novel bio-based approach is water-resistant and biodegradable, resulting in a ‘virtuous circle’ for leather recycling. 


Application

Conventional leather recycling involves use of synthetic, non-biodegradable and non-recyclable materials such as PU and PVC to form regenerated composite materials. This project has developed an eco-friendly and sustainable way to recycle leather.

Technological Breakthrough
  • Using environmentally friendly bio-based binders (e.g. sugar or protein) as an alternative to synthetic and non-biodegradable PU and PVC to generate a new piece of leather sheet
  • Applying reaction process that prevents the generation of toxic chromium VI during leather recycling
Awards
Special Edition 2022 Inventions Geneva Evaluation Days - Gold Award
2022 World Changing Ideas Awards - Honourable Mention
Project Name (ITF)
Development of a System for Post-consumer Leather Products Recycling
Project Number (ITF)
ITP/003/20TP