At the eve of Lineapelle, the specialized international trade show dedicated to all the novelties tied to the luxury leather industry taking place in Milan, at Fieramilano Rho from 21 February to 23 February, Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale (The Genuine Italian Vegetable-Tanned Leather Consortium), trade association that promotes the culture and tradition of vegetable-tanned leather in Tuscany, has released an interesting study.

The association that groups together 20 tanneries, all producing high-quality vegetable-tanned leathers, has presented a research showing that vegetable tanned skin has an average bio-based carbon content of 95% versus 25% of vegan alternative and synthetic materials. 

"We have a responsibility towards society, and our challenge is to achieve a system model that can guarantee principles of sustainability on a social, economic and environmental level," said Leonardo Volpi, president, The Genuine Italian Vegetable-Tanned Leather Consortium.

The research conducted by chemist Gustavo Adrián Defeo in the Ars Tinctoria laboratories measured the incidence of bio-based carbon (of biological origin) and the presence of petroleum derivatives in samples from its 20 Tuscan member tanneries, comparing it with that in alternative materials. 

"The need was to demonstrate through scientific data that going in the direction of circularity and tradition remains the best choice to pursue. That’s why we decided to measure the degree of sustainability of lathers tanned by the consortium’s tanners," added Volpi. 

The research confirmed that the leathers analysed, treated with vegetable extracts as set by the Consortium’s standards, achieve bio-based carbon contents around an average of 95%, placing them in the highest range (between 80% and 100%), the same ones of today’s bio-based materials such as cotton and wool, and compared them to an average of 25% found in alternative materials declared sustainable because they are derived from cactus, pineapple, apple or other types of vegetables. 

Vegetable-tanned leather is the result of an ancient artisanal process, handed down from generation to generation with few modifications, based on natural materials: hides, tannins, natural fats and oils, and natural proteins. 

Such processing is based upon a concept of circularity with a centuries-old tradition, that of vegetable tanning, which has always been based on natural products and preserved for centuries by Tuscan master tanners.

However, the Consortium associates’ aim is to constantly evolve and achieve tanning techniques that produce zero waste. In fact, hides, scraps and off cuts can be turned into fertilizers for agriculture with a very high carbon capture performance. 

The research, conducted by Ars Tinctoria, developed an innovative technique to measure the biomass-derived carbon content and the presence of petroleum derivatives in any type of organic material through SCAR spectrometry, an analysis similar to that used to date archaeological finds.

In support of this study, the Genuine Leather Consortium is launching a campaign-floor on some of Milan's sidewalks-around the Central Station and in the Via Solari district, from February 14 to 23.

Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana campaign
Photo: Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana
Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana campaign
Thirty stencil-effect graffiti reproduce the handprint, a graphic element connected to the Consortium's guarantee certificate, and indicate the average percentage of bio-based carbon in the vegetable leather, which is 95%. Finally, a QR Code invites passers-by to find out how sustainable the garments and accessories they are wearing at that moment are, providing their impact percentage ratio.


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