A groundbreaking initiative to create more eco-friendly recycled leather has been unveiled through a collaborative project supported by the H&M Foundation and developed by the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA).

This innovative approach aims to replace the conventional synthetic, non-biodegradable binders such as PU and PVC, commonly used in recycled leather production, with bio-based binders and environmentally friendly chemicals.

Traditional recycled leather typically combines shredded leather scraps and residual fibers with these synthetic binders, often containing harmful chemical residues like chromium VI from the tanning process. These chemical remnants persist throughout the recycling process, posing environmental and health concerns.

However, the pioneering reProLeather prototype seeks to address this critical industry issue. The H&M Foundation and HKRITA’s Planet First program have developed «a novel technology to separate chromium VI from shredded leather fibers, creating a bio-based alternative to PU and PVC binders.» This innovation results in a new form of recycled leather that is both biodegradable and recyclable.

During the research phase, reProLeather has successfully transformed post-consumer leather fibers into leather sheets, demonstrating its potential. HKRITA is actively seeking industry partners to collaborate in optimizing production properties and enhancing functionality, with the goal of making this innovation more widely applicable in the fashion industry.

Christiane Dolva, Strategy Lead at H&M Foundation, expressed enthusiasm for this transformative solution, stating, «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. reProLeather could be one of these solutions. I hope to see it scale soon.»

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