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What is Vegan Leather? Are There Benefits to the Environment?

As a follower of all things fashion, you’re beginning to see new ways of how products, from shoes to jackets to handbags are transitioning towards the eco-friendly route. Leather, one of the staple materials for creating such items, has evolved over recent years due to the fact that more fashion brands are not only  incorporating non-animal products but using materials that aim to reuse otherwise harmful waste, e.g. plastic. 

Today, we see vegan leather materials as being one of the most popular alternatives to traditional animal leather. From luxury brands to fast fashion retail, vegan leather has taken on interest as the eco-friendly and cruelty-free alternative. So you may ask yourself, What is vegan leather? Is vegan leather better for the environment

What is vegan leather

So...What is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather, in general, is made from animal-free products and is the imitation of authentic leather. According to the animal-rights group, PETA, Vegan Leather is most likely to be created from a plastic known as polyurethane. Although polyurethane is considered animal-friendly, most materials like polyurethane, for example, PVC, are made with a high percentage of chloride which is a toxic chemical. 
However, there are other safe alternatives in making vegan leather that are sustainable for the environment such as recycled rubber, waxed cotton, cork, and even fruit waste like pineapple leaves and apple peels. When vegan leather is made of polyurethane and PVC, as opposed to a more sustainable composition, the production process does have an impact on the environment as harsh chemicals are being used and emitted into the environment, and exposed to human workers.  

Is Vegan Leather more Sustainable?

It depends on the components that are being used to create the vegan leather. The ideal is for the vegan leather to be made from materials that are known to be more sustainable, e.g. organic, non-toxic, animal friendly, ethical and eco-friendly. Traditional animal leather, as mentioned, has a threatening impact on the environment due to the harsh chemicals used and toxic exposure.

Quality of vegan leather

 

According to an article in  Harper’s Bazar UK, creating authentic leather consists of a procedure known as the tanning process; in which strong chemicals are used to transform the skin into leather, which also allows for preservation. 

There are major risks for the workers engaged in the tanning procedure. According to ECOPOL, tannery employees have experienced skin reactions, eye and mouth irritation, problems related to digestion, even long-term cancer, and reproductive issues. Also, according to ECOPOL, tanning heavily impacts the environment by way of deforestation, and water pollution; the chemicals involved flow into community waterways, and contribute to overuse of land. 

Is vegan leather better for the environment? With vegan leather sustainability on the rise, not only will it have a lesser effect on the environment, but will provide a safe and ethical workplace in which workers are not exposed to harsh chemicals and are able to bring in income to the farming industry. 

Quality of Vegan Leather

Vegan leather is often more lightweight, flexible, and durable than authentic leather.  Also, vegan leather can be made in a range of colors, not even authentic leather can achieve. These qualities have made vegan leather easier to work with, resulting in an end product such as a handbag or a jacket that lasts for years. These vegan leather alternatives have made a splash in the fashion industry.

  • Natural cork leather, which is considered sustainable, is highly durable as well as waterproof, stain-resistant, and easy to maintain.
  • Pineapple leather, also known as Piñatex, is known to be soft and durable, as well as flexible.
  • Organic Waxed Cotton, is great for creating patent leather. It is also pliable, waterproof, and easy to wash.
  • Recycled Rubber, is durable and easy to take care of.  It also takes a long time to wear out, assuring you that the quality will last you for a long time.
Is vegan leather more sustainable

Improvement in Eco-Friendly Alternatives

There are plenty of misconceptions about vegan leather. “It doesn’t look as good”. “It doesn’t have the same longevity as authentic leather”. But that’s simply not the case. According to the Vegan Review, more companies are using materials and creative techniques to prove that vegan leather can be as high-luxury as authentic leather. 

Due to the benefits of using vegan leather, there are more materials being manufactured that are plant-based and fruit-based, of which the production process is ethical, and the future of vegan leather is gearing towards being more eco-friendly.

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