The Leather and Hide Council of America has published a powerful fact sheet that makes clear the waste impact of letting hides go to waste

“Turning hide into leather is one of the oldest forms of recycling. Hides are the natural and inevitable by-products of meat and dairy consumption. In fact, in the U.S, every single hide used in leather production comes from animals raised for food: leather manufacturing does not kill a single animal. Rather, manufacturers purchase as many hides as they can – cutting down waste – and transform them into durable, versatile and beautiful leather.’

The fact sheet goes on to quote that disposing of unused hides generates 120,000 tonnes of unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions  – something that can easily be avoided. It looks at the repercussions of replacing natural leather with synthetic materials derived from fossil fuels and urges people to consider the importance of using the natural materials that we have.

EITHER USE IT LOSE IT – one of South Africa’s sought after leather manufacturers turning waste into worth.

An article by Steve Collett – to promote the sustainable qualities of leather.

The questions arise. How many industries can claim to reuse 4.5 million tonnes of potential waste every year? How many companies can boast converting unwanted materials into stylish, long-lasting urban & vintage leather products that grace and adorn hundreds of people around the world with leather products and accessories either for personal use or in their homes? There is a fact, and that is the leather industry can – an industry that is far more sustainable than it’s often given credit for. In essence it doesn’t kill for its art, but rather upcycles animal hides and offcuts that would otherwise be thrown away for waste and disposal.

For an insight into this inherently sustainable process, we spoke to one of South Africa’s leather specialists who are turning waste from the meat and dairy industry into worth.  

Steve Collett Quotes –

We don’t participate  in waste”, says Steve Collett, founder and owner of CWA Leather and sister company Steve Collett Urban & Vintage Leather. The company’s mission is to ensure that the beef and hunting industry’s unwanted animal hides are rescued, re-used, re-processed and upcycled into high quality leather furniture, men and woman’s leather products and accessories, avoiding the otherwise huge environmental impact of those hides and off cuts being left to rot in landfill. 

The company, which claims to produce its leather locally as part of its commitment to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint. This commitment dates back to 2009, when the first company launched its zero waste strategy, with the goal of reaching zero embedded carbon and sending zero waste from the manufacturing process to landfill by 2025. Using processes such as innovative tanning methods and recycling its waste water back into production.

Both companies make a concerted effort to eliminate waste, but of a different sort. The businesses are rooted in their passion for the ocean and their commitment to protecting marine life by reducing plastic waste.

That’s one of the main reasons why Steve Collett uses leather, a durable, long-lasting material, to create versatile products that people can use for every daily activity, whether that be indoors, outdoors and simply casual day to day living. At the end of the day, leather hides have one of the longest life spans that you can keep forever. The fact that this leather is a by-product of the meat, dairy and hunting industries make this also extremely significant.

Steve comments – “More leather than we actually use – the hides themselves – end up in landfill rather than being used to create furniture, bags, shoes and accessories.In most cases we create new products that are damaging to the environment.

For CWA & Steve Collett Urban & Vintage Leather, using a vegan or PU (polyurethane) leather simply doesn’t fit with his companies philosophy nor their signature craftsmanship and the voice of their brands. One of the main reasons is because these products are made from crude oil and ultimately ends up as waste at the bottom of the sea, harming the animals that try to eat it.

We don’t want to waste what we already have,” he says. These are the very foundations that birthed both companies and especially Steve Collett Urban & Vintage Leather that was created to make sure all leather offcuts are used to produce a new work of art and remain sustainable and play their part in conserving the precious resources of the planet as well as not being part of using products that are harmful to our environment, and that impact nature to the point where there becomes irreversible damage and whereby the planet cannot sustain supply and demand. Steve ensures that every piece of leather gets used – even the smallest offcuts are made into belts & bangles.

Using or Losing

Steve says that we have a simple choice: “to use the hides from animals that are raised and killed for their meat, or allow these materials to be burned or sent to landfill.

When Steve is asked why he prefers using leather over alternatives such as vegan or faux leather, leatherette or faux suede, he claims that they’re “less hardwearing, much harder to repair, and in the founders opinion, considerably less beautiful. In most cases these materials are often understood to have a much shorter working life which results in hundreds of years in landfill; to say nothing of the environmental impact of their production.

Steve agrees that whilst some plastics are vital to modern human existence, they should be treated as a precious and limited resource, rather than being used to mimic leather, “a material that is vastly superior, and a by-product of the food industry.

Life in Leather

It’s common knowledge that leather making is the ultimate in upcycling, turning many industries from trash into treasure. Leather craftsmen take pride in breathing new life into materials that are destined to be disposed and land up in monstrous piles on unrecyclable trash . Steve puts it plainly, “There is a rare, powerful beauty in taking what has been discarded or dismissed, and letting it live again, as if it were alchemy.”

For any enquires or any orders please get in touch with us here – or you can say hello here – +27 64 845 9117

Stay safe, and blessings from the CWA Leather & Steve Collett Urban & Vintage Leather teams 🙂

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