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Eco-leather: what does it really mean? Discover Bioveg!

If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably wondering what eco-leather is, with a view to buying a jacket, a pair of shoes or the upholstery for your new car. The vocabulary related to the world of leather and it’s more or less ecological alternatives is very varied and sometimes imprecise, and confusion is often exploited to pass off as ecological materials that are not even remotely so.

Eco-leather: how is it produced?

The words eco-leather, ecological leather or leather with reduced environmental impact are defined by a series of European standards which also clarify precisely the area in which these words can be used. The word eco-leather and all its derivatives must only be used to refer to real leather of animal origin which has undergone a tanning process with a low environmental impact, therefore more respectful of the environment and therefore, precisely, ecological.

This concept has been further developed by the UNI 11427:2011 standard and by LAW no. 8/2013, which define the terms “Eco-leather” and “Ecological Leather” in sufficient detail to make it clear that this is not an artificial product but a by-product of the food industry, of animal origin.

The definition is as follows:

“The terms ‘leather’ and ‘skin’ and those deriving from them or their synonyms, even when translated into a language other than Italian, are reserved exclusively for products, with or without hair, obtained from the processing of animal remains that have been tanned or impregnated in such a way as to preserve the natural structure of the fibres, as well as articles made from them, provided that any covering layers of other material are 0.15 millimetres or less in thickness.”

The standard establishes the minimum requirements for leather to be defined as “artificial leather” or similar:

  • compliance with consumer health and safety requirements
  • performance of hides and skins in accordance with the specific technical product standards for their intended use

Minimum process requirements:

  • adherence to the limits of chemicals subject to legislative restriction for use in tanning processes;
  • compliance with the limits of chemicals subject to legislative restriction in the finished leather;
  • compliance with current environmental and other relevant legislation;
  • compliance with the limit values of specific predefined environmental indicators (water consumption, chemicals, waste produced, etc.).

Eco-friendly leather vs synthetic leather

We have discovered that, therefore, synthetic leather has nothing to do with vegan leather, but only defines a more innovative and sustainable process of tanning real leather. What are the right words to use to navigate the world of alternative materials to leather?

The first big truth is that all alternative materials to real leather are synthetic, i.e. they have no connection with the animal world: they are industrial products made from synthetic fibres to which a plastic coating is applied, such as polyurethane (on labels ‘PU’) or PVC. These materials are certainly cruelty-free, but they can be more or less sustainable. The term faux leather, in fact, was coined in the 1990s when nails and skinny pants in this new synthetic fabric were all the rage on the catwalks. Sustainability was not a priority and the term was used freely until it was blacklisted as a misleading term in 2013. Today, advertising a leather-like material as ‘faux leather’ is punishable.

A lot has happened in the world of synthetics since the 1990s: the chemical industry has invested in research and development, discovering that with a little more effort, petroleum derivatives could be replaced by innovative and less sustainable raw materials. Today, synthetic leather is produced from grapes, mushrooms and, as in our Coronet case, from corn and cereals.

Discover BioVeg, high-performance and sustainable

The BioVeg product family represents the most sustainable alternative to natural leather on the market. PETA approved, cruelty-free and derived from renewable sources, these materials differ from fossil alternatives in their organic content, derived from plant sources. This result has been achieved thanks to the use of bio-polyols originating from non-food and non-GMO cereals combined with textile supports of natural origin or recycled material. The use of certified raw materials attests to their nature: FSC certified viscose or recycled polyester from a post-consumer chain, GRS certified.

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