H&M Foundation and HKRITA explain reProLeather successfully restructures post-consumer leather fibres into leather sheets in its research stage. It is produced using technology that separates the chromium VI from shredded leather fibres and that creates a bio-based alternative to the PU and PVC binders, thereby creating a new form of recycled leather that is biodegradable and recyclable.
reProLeather is a recycled leather system that separates, categorises and recycles post-consumer leather products into useful raw materials for the manufacturing of new products. It is carried out in two steps, beginning with shredding a whole post-consumer leather product into pieces until leather fibres of high purity are obtained, and removing free chromium by transforming it into a soluble salt or complex compound.
Then the separated leather fibres react with bio-based binders such as sugar or protein under mild conditions, and collagen fibres become interconnected and form a new leather. Regenerated leather obtained with such a novel bio-based approach is water-resistant and biodegradable, resulting in a virtuous circle for leather recycling.
HKRITA is now seeking industry partners to optimise production properties and enhance functions, paving the way for improved industry applicability in the future.
H&M Foundation strategy lead Christiane Dolva says: “As a philanthropic change agent for the entire industry we take risks to unlock needed solutions with the ambition to find technologies that can contribute to a planet-positive fashion future.
“I’m always open to sharing our findings openly with others, to find industry actors ready to adopt bold innovations and rePro Leather could be one of these solutions. I hope to see it scale soon.”
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