Tanfor T – Sustainable leather tanning

Tanning helps create long-lasting leather products

Leather is in many ways an unbeatable material, for many products like garment, shoes, upholstery and automotive seats. An important part of production of leather is the tanning process, which makes leather more durable; it stabilizes the internal structure of the leather and prevents natural proteins from decomposing over time.

Environmentally as well as tanner friendly Tanfor T

Leather tanning is a very water intensive industry. The solid wastes, the wastewaters and the sludge from the treated wastewater are challenges for this industry which has to operate in a world where environmental emission requirements are getting stricter all the time. Wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal costs of tanneries can be very high.

In a joint effort, Kemira ChemSolutions in Tiel, the Netherlands, and the R&D center in Espoo, Finland, have developed a new product that challenges the traditional methods in mineral tanning. Kemira’s Tanfor T can be called revolutionary in the field: its environmental benefits and cost efficiency are unrivalled. Tanfor T can be used for all applications like automotive, upholstery, garment and shoes.

The product is based on compounds of aluminum and silicon – both of which are naturally occurring elements – and organic acids that are perfectly safe for both people and the environment. Its components are partially biodegradable or environmentally benign and are used e.g. in wastewater treatment or household detergents. More importantly, no chromium, aldehydes or organic solvents have been used, that create expensive side effects for tanners. Water is easier to treat and the costs of solid and liquid waste streams are decreased. Tanners can adopt Tanfor T without having to make any major adjustments to their process.

Ecological production combined with quality design

Tanfor T also has many other advantages. The hides tanned with Tanfor T are exceptionally white compared to the chrome tanned wet blue hides and therefore easy to dye, even in extremely bright colors. The high uptake of dyes and other process chemicals is also a cost benefit. These characteristics were also noted at the Bologna Leather Fair in October, where the product was launched, receiving lots of positive feedback from customers.

Bright colors and sustainability are also valued by top shoe designer Minna Parikka, who agreed to produce Tanfor T pilot shoes and bags for Kemira. “Sustainability and environmental values are growingly important in the shoe industry, and the production of leather shoes can be environmentally challenging,” Parikka says. For her as a designer it is important to get new, more ecologically produced leathers to market that are able to keep the blazing colors. “Consumers, and I as a designer, are aware of ecological values and feel that they need to be nurtured.”