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TILBURG – New technology has been launched which is claimed to slash chemical and water use in leather tanning. The potential breakthrough is said to bring about results that are is indistinguishable from traditionally tanned leather with regards to quality, characteristics, stability and lead-time. The technology heralds a potentially huge breakthrough given the hugely water-intensive nature of leather tanning. Moreover, the toxic chemicals used in existing leather tanning techniques are the cause of significant illnesses in tannery workers in major leather producing countries such as Bangladesh. The Leather Working Group estimates that the total water consumption worldwide in bovine leather making is 400 billion litres per year.

ECCO Leather, which has four tanneries globally, will unveil its DriTan technology at the World Water Congress 2018 in Tokyo. At its own tannery in the Netherlands, ECCO Leather – which operates four tanneries globally – claims it will eliminate 600 tons of sludge per year..

“This process only involves what you already have at hand,” said Thomas Gogsig, head of applied research at ECCO. “You don’t have to invest in new equipment. You don’t have to look for new exotic chemicals. You just use what is already available at the tannery, only in a different way.

“It took a lot of research, investment and manpower – a strong cocktail of science, know-how and traditional craft. But the biggest challenge was in opening our eyes. Tanning is a very old and traditional industry, so people tend to forget to ask: Can it be done differently?”

ECCO Leather is currently scaling the technology internally to its tanning operations. “We hope to find ways to share the new technology with our partners and the industry worldwide. But first, we must learn from how it unrolls in-house,” added Gogsig. “In fact, DriTan is just the first step in our ambitious scheme to make the entire leather manufacturing process water-free.”

More on this story in our next printed magazine.

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