reProLeather: Regenerating Bio-based Leather from Leather Waste
Leather production generates wastewater and harmful chemical residuals, such as chromium VI. HKRITA has developed a recycled 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.
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.
- Relieving environmental damage and health issue caused by chrome tanning during leather production
- Providing a bio-friendly alternative leather to fashion industries
- 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
2022 World Changing Ideas Awards - Honourable Mention
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