Leather goods: what are the alternatives to animal leather?

The production of animal leather incites a lot of cruelty towards animals, because it is from the skin of these living beings, which will be killed, that it is made. In addition, contrary to popular belief, real leather is not biodegradable because of the many chemicals used in its production. This is why there are more and more alternatives to leather such as synthetic leather or vegetable leather which have already been able to technically replace it for several years. Their production is much more ecological and ethical without being cruel to animals. Several alternatives, which are still being tested, are also very promising.

First alternative: synthetic leathers

Synthetic leather is often made from non-woven synthetic fibers or sometimes produced from recycled plastic. There is for example PVC which is made from polyvinyl chloride, or PU produced from polyurethane. These two kinds of synthetic leather resembling the real animal leather have more or less similar properties or even sometimes superior characteristics to it, especially with regard to water-resistance or flexibility and breathability. But both have a negative impact    on the environment, as they are plastic products made from petroleum and other chemicals. Nevertheless, their price remains much more affordable than that of real leather.

Second alternative: vegetable leathers: cork

It is the same material that is used for insulation or wine corks. Cork can also be used as an alternative to leather because of its flexibility and resistance. It comes from the surface bark of cork oaks. Its removal is not harmful to the tree and it is therefore completely ecological and ethical. It offers several virtues including its waterproofing, antifungal and hypoallergenic properties. Some even resist fire because of the bark which is, by nature, cultivated to protect the tree from combustion.

Third alternative: vegetable leathers: Piñatex

Piñatex is made from pineapple leaves that are mainly unused by farmers. Therefore, it is less expensive and purely ecological. First, the pineapple leaves are dehulled, then the fibers are transformed into a kind of leather or mesh. The harvesting and manufacturing of this product does not require soil, fertilizer or pesticides. Moreover, the biomass resulting from the decortication will be used for fertilization. It is completely biodegradable, but not 100% because of the resins used in the coating.

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