Chrome tanned leather

Leather is a very well marketed product making it come across as very expensive.  But did you know, that almost 90% of the leather products in the world are made using CHROME TANNING processes. While, more sustainable and natural vegetable tanning processes are prevalent from time immemorial, it is a lengthy and an expensive process. In contrast, chrome tanning can be completed in a day making it a cheaper and a dominant form of tanning to meet the fast-changing fashion needs of world.

What most often is intentionally hidden from the people are the staggering amount of fossil fuels and methane emissions associated with chrome tanning. For example, a typical steer of 36 months will consume the equivalent of 284 gallons of fossil fuels to make 1 leather hide of 7 lbs. This process will emit 300 kgs of methane, which has global warming potential, 20 times as much as carbon. Simply put, 1 leather hide of 7 lbs is equivalent of driving 25,000 miles in a standard automobile and associated pollution it releases.

Now let’s talk about how hazardous the chrome tanning process is. Sodium dichromate is the principal raw material used in chrome tanning processes, it is a carcinogen and causes damage to blood, kidneys, eyes, heart and lungs. Sun drying and boiling can oxidize and convert the chromium111, used in the tanning process, into the highly toxic hexavalent chromium, chromium V1. In places like Bangladesh, tannery workers often work for low wages in highly toxic and hazardous environment causing serious respiratory issues, including pneumonia and an increased risk of lung cancer. Manufacturers often dump liquid and solid waste that contains leftover chromium that pollutes waterways and put the health of local communities at risk.

Chrome tanned leather might be quick, cheap and a versatile material making it more desirable in today’s world. However, it does not have the the character of a vegetable tanned leather. Chrome tanned leathers are more synthetic that does not make it wear well, gradually making it loose their appearance. They are marketed to sell expensive but not a good investment. Leather is an ancient material which is so robust, flexible and good looking, invented some 400,000 years ago with its inexorable use even today. However,  the 'chrome tanned' leather is something that we can live without but are forced to live with, by luring the consumer sentiment to make money. In terms of the climate crisis, the fashion industry contributes around 10% of global green house gas emissions- and one of the worst culprits is the CHROME TANNING LEATHER INDUSTRY.


Back to blog