Read the article of Quimser CEO, Mr. Salvador Esquerra, about the alternatives to chrome tanning.

During 2018 and 2019, a growing concern started in the Chrome Free Wet-White leather tanning market, and at Quimser we began to consider seriously about the alternatives that we could offer to Chrome tanning. In 2019, we began to look for an option to the current tanneries. After investigating for possible substitute products and after several theoretical research and practical developments, in early 2020 we had already developed the SERTAN WT as a sustainable alternative for leather tanning.

After several studies and tests, in early 2020 we had already developed SERTAN WT as a sustainable alternative for leather tanning.

Different biodegradability tests were performed to compare Chrome tanning with plant extract and the new SERTAN WT product tanning. These tests allowed us to have decisive conclusions that we were working with a product that provided biodegradable and compostable leather.

To better understand the two concepts, it must be said that a material is considered biodegradable when it can decompose in a reasonable period of time and become another chemical element by the action of biological agents such as bacteria or enzymes from fungi, plants or animals, plus physical factors such as temperature and humidity. All of these, environmental conditions that occur in nature and transform these substances into carbon dioxide, water, and other chemical components.

On the other hand, we consider a material compostable when, after being biodegraded, the resultant biodegraded products are not harmful to the environment and can be integrated into the natural ecosystem without altering their conditions. Therefore, biodegradation products are inoculum or act as nutrients by the natural environment.

In nature, this transformation is constant and generates humus (dark earth with a characteristic odour that we associate with the forest). These natural transformations are essential for the proper maintenance of the ecosystem (life cycle).

The time it takes for a material to be biodegraded and composted (integrated by nature (life cycle) depends, among other factors, on the living organisms involved in the process, temperature, and humidity. According to the standard EN 13432 of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), a material is considered compostable if it meets the following criteria:

  • Degradation of 90% of its total mass in a maximum time of 6 months.
  • Be completely fragmented into particles smaller than 2mmx2mm after 12 weeks.
  • Ecotoxicity of humus and comply with compostable material standards.
  • Do not contain heavy metals.

In consequence, we can say that a biodegradable material is not always compostable, but a compostable material is always biodegradable.

According to QUIMSER’s laboratory tests and INESCOP analyses (ISO 20136: 2020 – DETERMINATION OF DEGRADABILITY BY MICRO-ORGANISMS), we can say that tanned leather with the SERTAN WT process is 91% biodegradable and compostable in 28 days.

In contrast, the results of the wet blue chromed tanned give us, as a result, biodegradation of 0.5% and that of a crust tanned with plant extracts (Ref. EA-R-20099), a biodegradability value of 9-10%.

At the same time we developed the SERTAN WT, QUIMSER laboratory has been working on the development of a range of re-tanning and fatliquoring products that are environmentally friendly and provide Biodegradable, Compostable and Eco-friendly toxic leather.

Other current and future requirements and regulations have also been taken into account in the R + D + R of these products, such as:

– The origin of the materials: Avoid petroleum products and ecologically sensitive products such as fish or animal oils.
– 0-MRSL ZDHC restricted product lists
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (fish oils, deforestation).

The new ECO products are free of formaldehyde, heavy metals, petroleum derivates and 100% natural origin. Some of these products that stand out are:

SERTAN ND, SERTAN VGI, SERTAN RD, SERTAN DX, SERTAN RN-S, SERTAN RN-V, all of them of natural origin, 100% ecological, free of restricted products, such as formaldehyde, bis-phenols and free of petroleum products or toxic products (phenols, naphthalene …) offering the same characteristics as the products we all know on the market.

In order to work on the preservation of the oceans, as indicated by the SDGs (Sustainable Development Objective) published by the UN, QUIMSER has developed the SEROIL NVS and the SEROIL NVP which are fats that are 100% of vegetal origin, without fish and mineral oils petroleum based.

Together with INESCOP we have determined that the articles worked with this range of re-tanning and fattening products, we obtain values ​​of biodegradation of 50-70% of the leather in 28 days (Ref. EA-R-20143 and Ref. EA-R- 20144).

From QUIMSER, we hope that these type of tanning will increase, for when the leather goods made with these products end their useful life, they will become integrated into the environment without generating the impact that they are causing today. Animal skin is natural, and once it is transformed into leather, it will continue to be natural, biodegradable, and compostable.

Salvador Esquerra Resa
CEO of Quimser