The German Chemical Industry Association (VCI) has awarded first prize in its 2019 Responsible Care competition to Lanxess for its resource-efficient manufacturing of leather chemicals (ReeL) project.

In this research project, Lanxess developed a method for recycling residues from leather production directly on site. The main raw materials are biomass, collagen-containing shavings and waste cuts, which, until now, have usually been disposed of. Tanners can now produce Lanxess’s X-Biomer retanning agents from these by-products themselves and use them in production. A medium-sized tannery produces between one and two tonnes of shavings per day.

At the time of the announcement, head of the Lanxess leather business unit, Luis López-Remón, said: “Sustainability is crucial for the leather industry and this award confirms to us that we are on the right track. Recycling residual materials and the development of material cycles are essential topics.” Lanxess launch ReeL in 2017, working with Leverkusen-based research institute Invite to develop the equipment required to process the residues in tanneries. Prominent German leather manufacturer Heller-Leder carried out a pilot project at its tannery near Bremen.

In April 2019, Lanxess and ReeL won the Responsible Care competition for its home region, North Rhine-Westphalia. As a regional winner, it went forward to take part in the national competition. A jury of independent experts declared it the winner. The project has won several other awards, including the Climate and Environment Innovation Award in February 2018, which is presented by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the German ministry for the environment.