Sustainability focus: Recycled leather

How is recycled leather made? And what are the properties of this sustainable material? This blog answers all.

4 min read time | Feb 26, 2024 | Written by: Weavabel
leather offcuts

As fashion consumers become more eco-aware, we've seen a significant shift towards sustainable materials to help reduce the impact on the environment. Leather has long been under the microscope due to its animal origin. However, synthetic alternatives such as PU can often be inferior in quality.

That's where recycled leather comes in. Produced using by-products and consumer waste, recycled leather is one initiative attempting to close the loop on fashion waste. So, what exactly is it? How is it made? And how can it be of use to you? We take a look.


Where does recycled leather come from?

Recycled leather uses waste leather, whether as a by-product from the leather tanning industry, fashion production or post-consumer waste. Although it's a natural product, virgin leather is produced using chemicals, which can be dangerous to the environment when decomposing.

That's why it's essential to consider how leather waste can be transformed into new products and returned to the supply chain, encouraging a circular economy with minimal waste.


How is recycled leather produced?

Leather cut-offs, waste and scraps are shredded, dried and ground into fine granules. These granules are kneaded with water to form a pulp, which is dried and ground again. The pulp is stretched and dried to produce a tape that has similar properties to traditional leather.

The tape is pressed and compacted before being dried in an oven for eight to 16 hours.

The recycled leather tape is cut into sheets before being coloured and finished with treatments to produce the final product.


What are the pros and cons of recycled leather?

While recycled leather has properties similar to virgin leather, it has been processed and won't be exactly the same. Recycled leather uses polymers and chemicals during production, which impacts the material's overall performance.


The pros of recycled leather

  • It's created using recycled materials that would otherwise head to landfills, making it a circular, sustainable product.
  • As it's not a natural, raw product, there are more finishing options, such as patterns, textures and colours. The natural texture and pattern of the skin dictate the finish of virgin leather.
  • It's cost-effective as it's produced using waste products.
  • It has a smooth appearance, which is preferable for some applications.
  • As it's highly resistant to liquid, it's less likely to stain.


The cons of recycled leather

  • It's less durable than virgin leather as it's much thinner, making it prone to cracking and peeling.
  • It looks less realistic than virgin leather.
  • It still requires a lot of chemicals and water for processing.
  • Further processing can be energy-intensive, increasing the carbon footprint of production.


How can you incorporate recycled leather into your branding projects?

Interested in incorporating recycled leather into your next branded trims project? The possibilities are almost endless. From badges and patches to zip pulls and keyrings, recycled leather can be used for various applications. Here are some examples to get you inspired.

Recycled Leather

Kura 3

Eco Weavabel 2


Recycled leather is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovative materials

At Weavabel, we're constantly investing in the latest and most innovative sustainable materials so you can achieve your core goals with your packaging and trim projects. To learn more about the sustainable materials available, download our textiles cheat sheet for all the details.

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