5kg of organic waste is generated when making just 1kg of leather, that’s 5 times as much waste as the actual product!
Leather is treated and tanned animal skin. This material usually comes from the cattle used in the meat industry but snake, alligator and crocodile leather has become quite common in luxury and high-end fashion. So most of our leather is from cows who are used for meat, this is good. However the farming of cattle for their meat and leather and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions are incredibly high. This is before you get to the processing part of leather which is where the environmental impact of leather itself can be really felt, mainly in the process known as tanning. This is where the leather is treated so it doesn't biodegrade or dry out and is flexible. The chemicals used dye and tan the leather are pretty toxic so often causes huge problems to the health of the people who are doing it and the surrounding environment where the chemicals end up in local waterways. This water can have an effect on the growth and yield of crops, as well as the possibility that the crops absorb toxic heavy metals which can be passed on if eaten. In 2017, the Bangladeshi government shut down over 100 chromium-using tanneries due to the immense pollution they were introducing into Dhaka’s main waterways.
1kg of leather takes 160 litres of water and produces 8kg of C02.
So, what can you do? Well the best thing to do is try to fix any leather items you have as they are hard wearing and can last you well for years and years. Head to a cobblers and get those gorgeous leather shoes re-soled! Try and buy pre-loved leather items instead of buying new. If you have to buy new, try and opt for a brand that sources and tans their leather sustainable and with workers rights in mind.