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New sustainable leather process

Swatches | September 1, 2021 | By:

Because Enspire Leather is produced in uniform continuous rolls, and often finished in rectangular uniform “hides,” yields increase dramatically for end product manufacturers compared to traditional leather. Photos: Sustainable Composites LLC.

Two Pennsylvania scientists have developed a proprietary process that turns discarded leather scraps into a new leather product they call Enspire Leather (the “E” is for “environmental”). Tom Tymon and Frank Fox, founders of Sustainable Composites LLC of Lancaster, Pa., have worked for more than five years, with $3 million in R&D, to create the product that they contend not only replicates the look, feel, smell and performance of tanned hide at half the cost but also dramatically reduces waste.

Ordinarily, 25–60 percent of the leather produced in the tanning process winds up on the cutting room floor because of defects and the limited dimensions of tanned hides. That means an estimated 3.5 billion pounds of leather scraps get sent to landfills or incinerators every year. 

The scientists created a way to reclaim and process the discarded scraps by grinding them up and pressing them into sheets made from 100 percent leather fibers. The benefits include:

  • Sustainability achieved by rescuing leather scraps from product waste streams.
  • Leatherlike pliability, durability, sew-ability, abrasion and stain resistance, and fold properties.
  • Reduced cutting waste with uniform 54-inch rolls free of holes and other defects, helping maximize yield utilization.
  • 40–60 percent material cost reductions for end product manufacturers, including footwear, clothing, small leather goods, furniture and automotive companies.

In addition, the new product offers virtually unlimited design options of color, texture and finish for products previously crafted from traditional leather.

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