People have been practicing various leather making materials for more than 7,000 years. Today, leather remains one of the most durable and versatile materials. However, a growing number of consumers have begun to avoid wearing products made from animals due to moral concerns and the fact that it is environmentally unstable.
The environmental consequences of current processing techniques have led manufacturers to create greener alternatives. Among them are scientists at VTT Technical Research Center in Finland, who have produced an alternative leather made from fungi. What’s more, they’ve demonstrated a new way to create continuous sheets of eco-friendly material at commercial scales.
Conventional leather production has a substantial environmental burden, with a carbon footprint of approximately 130 million tons annually. In addition, it involves vast amounts of land, water, and energy due to mass livestock farming, and processing the leather also has an impact, requiring significant amounts of toxic chemicals.
While so-called “vegan leather,” made from synthetic materials, avoids the issues around animal products, they require toxic chemicals to process and take a long time to biodegrade. It, therefore, causes the same problems as any synthetic plastic.
Thankfully, the leather market has begun looking towards more sustainable, plastic-free, and vegan alternatives that avoid these problems entirely. Last year, two Canadian sisters produced vegan leather items out of apple peel waste collected from the juicing industry. Two Mexican friends made vegan leather from prickly pear cactus; now, mycelium’s latest alternatives are made. Find more.