After five years and $3 million worth of research and development, two Pennsylvania scientists have developed a proprietary process to create a brand new, 100% leather waste fiber. The company, Sustainable Composites, is turning leather scraps into a new product called Enspire Leather to replicate the look, feel, performance and even smell of traditional tanned hide at a significantly lower financial and environmental cost.
According to Sustainable Composites, producing ordinary leather typically wastes 25-60% of product in the tanning process because of the defects and limited dimensions of hide. Because of this, an estimated 3.5 billion pounds of leather scraps end up on the cutting room floor and eventually in incinerators or landfills each year. Instead, Enspire Leather reclaims those discarded scraps, grinds them up and presses them into sheets to process the material into a new fiber. The resulting fabric has the same pliability, durability, sew-ability, fold properties and abrasion- and stain-resistance as traditional leather.
The material is then made into uniform rolls of 54 inches that are free from defects to help maximize yield and reduce cost. From a business standpoint, product manufacturers for items like furniture, footwear and handbags gain 40-60% material cost reductions. Footwear manufacturing company Timberland has already taken advantage of the new leather alternative for select products as part of its commitment to environmentally responsible development.
Although the new material is made from scraps, Sustainable Composites can ensure a wide range of design options for color, texture, thickness and finish thanks to its unique composition and forming procedures. Because Enspire Leather is made using recycled materials, it reduces the amount of trash produced from more conventional methods. The patented process offers an exciting update to the leather product industry, combining the traditional art of leather-working with the contemporary technology of a new age.
Images via Sustainable Composites LLC