The XXXV edition of the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies (IULTCS) International Congress also featured various presentations highlighting the latest trends towards new generation biobased leather chemicals.

Several presentations during the event centred around the use of biobased materials for production of leather chemicals. With a move away from fossil fuel based raw materials in leather chemistry, this is seen as an important mega-trend within the industry and all of the major global leather chemical producers are now looking to develop new ranges of products which have a lower environmental impact and improve the product life cycle performance of leather.

Dr Yuije Ma of Smit & Zoon presented studies on the development of biobased retanning agents based on a lignin-modified phenolic syntan. She said that the company had been developing biobased chemistries since 2016 guided by Cradle-to-Cradle principles and improving the environmental performance of leather making. She said that the technology was based on industrial lignins sourced from different material origins such as soft/hard wood, grass and straw.

Through the EU funded Life Biopol project, Italy based chemical maker Codyeco, which is also part of the Smit Group, outlined the development of biopolymers from biomasses to make more sustainable leathers. Lorenzo Taddei from Codyeco said that the project, which also included two tanners in Spain and an Italian University, was able to show a 70-80% reduction in the product environmental footprint compared with conventional polymers. The process also reduces the use of water, inorganic salts, chromium III salts and COD levels.

Meanwhile, Dr Jochen Ammenn from Stahl outlined the company’s research into the development of sustainable retanning agents from fungal degradation of lignosulfonates. Still very much a work in progress, he said that they had reduced the molecular weight and the colour of lignosulfonates making them more suitable as a biobased compound in the development of retanning agents for bright leathers.

From ILM