As more and more people chose to adopt the vegan lifestyle, the demand for synthetic leather has gone up. And more often end up interlinking sustainability, environmental credentials, cruelty to animal and ethical sourcing together. Leather is being considered “bad” while synthetic leather fabrics being used to manufacture various products are being considered as “good”.
But do we understand the environmental impact synthetic leather? PU or polyurethane is the most common alternative for leather, and PU is made from DMF (Dimethylformamide), a material that has not only been associated with toxicity to humans but also has a lifespan of more than 500 years, meaning it’s not biodegradable. Conversely not only is its wear is much shorter than actual leather, it is much more difficult to up-cycle or recycle than leather, and burning it to dispose of it only releases harmful carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.
Keeping in mind the above information, it would seem that synthetic leather actually does more harm than good.
Now here is an interesting fact for all the naysayers of Leather isn’t it? Another interesting fact is that the actual hide value in terms of monetary value of an animal is only 3%, more than 93% of the animal is actually used for it’s meat.
The relationship between the meat industry and leather industry is a symbiotic one. As long as meat industry exists, they will continue to have animal hides as a waste product.
Unfortunately the current global supply of the hides has by far outstripped its demands. This has happened mainly due to 2 main reasons:
- More and more economically growing countries have increased their demand for meat consumption
- The public outcry against leather products has led to a global decrease in the demand for leather goods.
The above reasons have not decreased the demand for meat anywhere, but in fact all it has done is leading to a dumping of the animal hides, which frankly is a waste. The meat industry left with a lesser and lesser demand for animal hides has resorted to either dumping the animal hides in landfills or worst burning them. Neither of these have any positive impact on the environment, in fact quite the opposite.
Leather is simply a by-product of the meat industry, and that too a mere 3%. The lack of knowledge amongst the public about leather and synthetic leather is actually causing more harm than good.