Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Leather Tanning, Bionic Materials Innovations Earn Cradle to Cradle Certification

A toxic-free leather tanning agent and yarns containing recycled plastics earned their stripes in the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Registry this month. The certification, awarded by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, recognized these intelligent, high-quality solutions for their reduced environmental impact, including the use of chemicals, water, and energy during their production.

Material engineering company Bionic earned Bronze Level Cradle to Cradle certification for its HLX and DPX yarn structures. Both products use up-cycled plastic found in marine environments and coastal communities, and they are the first yarns containing recycled plastic to receive the certification.

“We pride ourselves on the environmental impact and accomplishments Bionic has achieved over the years, however when William McDonough challenged us to push our vision to the limit, we knew it was time to take it to the next level,” Bionic co-founder Tim Coombs said.

Pharrell Williams co-founded Bionic Yarn in 2010 to help utilize ocean plastic, which has since been used in products by adidas and G-Star’s RAW for the Oceans collection. Earlier this month, it was announced that Williams is now a co-owner of the G-Star RAW jeans brand and the company will “continue and expand its partnership with Bionic Yarn.”

The Bronze Level certification means that:

  • At least 75% of the products’ materials by weight have been assessed.
  • The product's homogeneous materials do not contain banned list chemicals above permitted thresholds.
  • Products/materials were designed to be recycled or to biodegrade and a pilot project focused on recycling the yarns is on-going.
  • A facility-wide water audit has been completed.
  • A renewable energy use and carbon management strategy has been developed.
  • A full social responsibility self-audit has been completed and a positive impact strategy has been developed, if needed.

Meanwhile, wet-green, a tanning agent with natural olive leaf extract as its primary ingredient, was re-certified at the Gold Level. The leaves it uses are a by-product of olive growing, which the product website says account for around 10 percent of olive harvest weight and therefore their use and collection does not detract from the health of the tree. In fact, the company estimates that up to 40 percent of the world’s leather production could theoretically be accomplished using the wet-green olive tanning method, based on the “enormous quantity” of these by-product materials.

Wet-green was developed by Germany-based the nature network as an alternative to traditional chrome tanning. The company claims that its wet-green tanning process can be used on any type of leather, whether for apparel, accessories, furniture, sports equipment, car seats, and “anywhere else soft, supple leather is needed.”

The Gold Level certification means that:

  • All materials present in the product ≥ 0.01% by weight were assessed, and all chemical substances present in a material at ≥ 0.01% by weight were assessed. None of them were found to pose significant or unknown risks for humans or the environment.
  • Products/materials were designed to be recycled or to biodegrade.
  • Product-relevant water that leaves the final manufacturing facility does not contain any chemicals which pose significant risks to humans or the environment.
  • At least 50% renewable electricity is used in the product's final manufacturing stage and at least 50% of direct on-site greenhouse gas emissions are offset with verified carbon offsets.
  • Working conditions in the product's manufacturing facilities and supply chain have been investigated and a positive impact strategy has been developed in cases of high or very high identified risks.

Wet-green is able to provide the tanning agent to tanneries or can tan small batches of leather at their own facilities.


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