The leather-making process wastes a considerable amount of water and chemicals. As we become more and more environmentally conscious, many savvy consumers are looking to cut back on their consumption and help the planet. Leather owners are looking at ways to recycle and upcycle their leather items to reduce their environmental impact.
But is leather recyclable? Or can we at least repurpose it to cut down on the amount of leather wasted each year? This article will look at the environmental impact of leather and ways to recycle our old leather items, putting them back to good use.
Is Leather Recyclable?
The good news is, leather can be recycled. Small pieces can be collected and reused instead of going directly to landfills. For example, leather from old couches can make new items like wallets or notebook covers.
Untreated leather is highly biodegradable. The bad news is that to make leather workable and durable, it has to go through a leather tanning process. This requires a large amount of water and harmful chemicals. Recycling leather avoids this entire process, making it a much more earth-friendly choice.
As well as consumers, conscious companies are also getting in on the act. Many businesses, including fashion companies, even attempt to grow customers’ awareness of using recycled leather goods.
Besides environmental benefits, recycling leather also helps create more jobs and boost the local economy. By 2030, a forecast 75% national recycling rate would create nearly 2.3 million jobs in the U.S, as shown in the “More Jobs, Less Pollution” study by NRDC.
How Easy is it to Repair Leather?
It depends on how big the damaged area is. If it is relatively small, you can fix it quickly using a high-quality leather repair kit. If the damaged area is more extensive, or you have little time and experience in fixing leather, you can take your items or a professional repair store.
Fixing leather is a lot easier than you might think. One of the most common leather problems is that the leather gets worn down or damaged. A great way to fix this is to use leather conditioner. You can also use leather dye, which is a great way to change the color of your leather.
Repairing leather items is far cheaper and more environmentally friendly than purchasing a new one.
What Are Some Ways to Repurpose Old Leather Goods?
Below are some simple ways to repurpose your old leather items.
Maintain your old leather items
Leather needs day-to-day care, just like our skin. Regular maintenance of leather goods is the best way to keep your leather items looking great.
You should regularly clean your leather goods with a soft brush or cloth. If you’ve used your leather bag in the rain, dry your wet items naturally or wipe the moisture away with a dry cloth. Avoid any artificial heat.
Every 3 to 6 months, you should use a specialized leather conditioner, vaseline, or natural baby soap to keep your leather items supple and prevent them from cracking or stretching.
If you notice signs of discoloration, stains, tears, or peeling, you should repair them quickly before they are damaged further. A good leather repair kit is an economical way to repair your leather items from the comfort of your own home.
Repurpose to craft items
If you’re particularly crafty, you can build a hobby or even a career by repurposing old leather goods into craft items like earrings, wallets, mobile phone cases, and cardholders. All you need to start this hobby is some basic tools like scissors, knives, and leather glue.
Additionally, repurposing old leather products also brings a fantastic bonding experience you can share with your spouse, kids, close friends, or neighbors. Embarking on a small project is a practical way to teach your children how to protect our planet by repurposing old items. The items you create with your own hands will also hold much more sentimental value than a shop-bought alternative.
Donate old leather items to a charity or goodwill store
Giving back to the community by donating leather items you don’t use, or that don’t fit you is a great way to avoid chucking away your leather clothing. If your leather items are still in good shape, your shoes, bags, garments, belts, and even couches can be donated to a local goodwill store.
Resell to craft thrift stores
As an alternative to donating your leather goods, some stores will purchase old leather and leather scraps from you to rework into something new and creative.
Take leather scraps to recycle centers
If you don’t have the time required for repurposing or reselling, you can take scraps or secondhand items to a recycling center.
In these centers, there are specific machines designed to recycle leather while minimizing the effect on the environment. Some industrial companies may buy scraps from these centers and use them to produce different products.
Contact your local center to find out more about what they accept and what they don’t. Then, clean and categorize your items before taking them for donation.
Is Leather Bad for The Environment?
According to a report in 2017 by the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, cow leather is the most damaging fashion fabric. Leather also has an environment destructive point of 159 in the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, while polyester is 44 and cotton is 98.
Among other toxic factors, animal leather is a world-leading contributor to global warming, water scarcity, and natural resource depletion. The impact of leather depends on its type and origin, how the animals were raised, and the tanning process undertaken to treat the leather.
Faux leather (or vegan/synthetic leather) has a third of the environmental impact of animal leather. However, it is not as environmentally friendly as you may think. Cheap faux leather mainly consists of plastic, which can take up to 500 years to biodegrade. However, there are now many options on the market that are more eco-friendly.
The overuse of leather has quickly become a burden on the Earth’s limited natural resources. The only solution to this rising environmental problem is to reduce our demands for virgin leather products. Minimizing the number of new leather items in our wardrobes, using high-quality and durable leather types, and finding creative ways to reuse or donate old leather goods are some simple ways to make leather less destructive. Switching to a more sustainable fabric like linen or cotton will also be beneficial.
Can You Donate Leather Items?
You can donate your old leather items to a local goodwill store or to charity, provided they are still in good condition. Donating is an easy, convenient way to increase your leather goods’ lifespan.
In the US, you can send old leather goods to Housing Works. They have a great program where they recycle leather coats and jackets and use the money raised to help fight AIDS and homelessness.
We hope that this article has helped answer the question “Is leather recyclable or not?”.
By making responsible choices and recycling or upcycling where possible, we can reduce the amount of leather ending up in a landfill, save money on new items, and give your leather goods a longer lifespan. The environment and your future generations will be thankful.