The Environmental Impact Of Leather
An Environmental Article from

From Owen Rogers,
October 2019

The entire life cycle of leather production – from the raising of cows to the initial skinning and tanning to the finishing process – has negative environmental impacts.

tanning factory
Tanning factory - Photo: Federico Gutierrez, Unsplash

Leather is often framed as a byproduct of meat and dairy, but considering the scale of the industry and ubiquity of leather in clothing worldwide, it’s easy to see why it should be considered as an industry in and of itself. We know that raising cows for food can be incredibly damaging to the environment, and when we look more closely at leather production, we can see that those environmental impacts don’t end with cows’ deaths.

This study was primarily focused on the impact of three post-tanning processes: retanning, fatliquoring, and dyeing. Retanning is just what it sounds like: putting tanned leather through the tanning process again.

Fatliquoring involves injecting oil into the leather before it dries such that every fiber is uniformly coated. Dyeing is the process of turning the leather different colors, such as red or blue, using substances that chemically bond to it.

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