Innovation That Matters

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Recycling leather waste into multiple new products

Fashion & Beauty

A startup turns leather offcuts into yarn, textiles, and suede

Spotted: Despite the environmental footprint of the leather industry, demand for the material continues to grow. One of the noted barriers to increasing the sustainability of leather manufacturing is the difficulty of introducing and integrating new technologies into production processes that have been used for centuries.

Recently, however, an increasing number of innovators have begun reducing the carbon footprint of the industry through recycling, and Korean materials technology company Atko Planning has patented a method for recycling natural leather offcuts and waste. The recycled materials are then upcycled for use in traditional products including vehicle upholstery, fashion, and footwear.

Atko Planning not only recycles leather into usable leather items, but it also transforms the fibres from the material into suede, yarn, and textiles. The company’s recycling process is dry, which means that not only is no water used during production of the upcycled leather, yarn, and textiles, but no wastewater is generated either.

Up to 30 to 40 per cent of every leather hide used in traditional production methods ends up as waste, something that is now avoidable through the application of Atko’s technology. And because Atko uses even very small offcuts in its recycling procedures, there is almost no waste generated by the new system. Those savings are financial as well as environmental, and the company passes the cost savings onto customers, who pay up to 40 per cent less for the recycled leather than they would for traditionally produced materials and products.

Atko leather is certified to the Global Recycled Standard, and the company works with a range of other certification partners and organisations, including Oeko-Tex and the ISO.

Written By: Keely Khoury



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