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Creating Leather From Waste Apple

Leather is a problematic material. Wasteful, a polluting tanning process, the environmental impact of cattle breeding, the chemicals required in the production process and there are significant end of use disposal challenges. It is also seemingly a highly desirable material and the demand for it, mostly from the upholstery and automotive sectors, has been growing. More recently, solutions for these challenges have been sort in finding different sources for leather, one example of which is producing the material from apple waste.

Licensed under CC - credit Flickr user: William Warby
Licensed under CC – credit Flickr user: William Warby

The idea originates from Alberto Volcan, an Italian engineering graduate and designer who has identified a link between apples and leather – they are both produced in similar countries (for climate reasons). Waste in the apple industry ranges from 30-40%, Volcan’s methodology processes apple waste, water, apple flour and a natural glue to produce leather that is thick enough to meet commercial standards. The methodology and the product are still in an initial phase, seeking investment and commercial opportunities, but there is definitely something interesting about the linking of one large waste stream with a clear material demand.

Volcan isn’t the first to spot the link between fruit and leather. Pinatex, a material developed by designer Carmen Hijosa, is a leather-like material crafted using pineapple leaves.

The test for these innovations will ultimately be in their economic viability, but the utilisation of a waste feedstock is an advantage and the early signs from Pinatex is that these alternative materials do have the potential to achieve market competitiveness.

Source: Enabling circular economy: leather from fruit waste

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