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Thread: What is the most biodegradable, organic material comparable to leather

  1. #1 What is the most biodegradable, organic material comparable to leather 
    Forum Freshman MarcoPolo's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    I've read that leather can last for hundreds of years. So is there a type of leather that is extremely biodegradable? And is there a material that gloves could be made out of that is organic, yet readily biodegradable---that offers grip like leather would?

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  3. #2  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    Well, leather itself is a natural material and easily biodegradable. I think the issue would be in the tanning process. Depending upon the chemicals used and the process utilized, the durability of the leather material could (and by convention is intended to) increase. I would suggest that you ask about the tanning process. Perhaps there is some leather which uses a natural process that allows it to easily biodegrade. I've honestly never thought about it.

    Regardless, any real leather is probably going to be better on the environment than a fake plastic leather like vinyl. But there are even biodegradable variants of vinyl nowadays so...

    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  4. #3  
    Moderator Moderator
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    Nov 2011
    city of wine and roses
    Leather can last for hundreds of years, but that's not usual.

    Put it into an active, hot compost heap and it won't last very long. Put it in there after significant damage to its surface or structure and it'll rot away even quicker. Western nations are not overrun with the remains of the uncounted millions of leather boots, shoes, gloves, coats and heavy duty gear so common during the previous centuries / millennia. And I doubt the leather suitcases, wallets, belts, saddles, upholstery and all purpose straps that used to be more common are presenting any significant permanent waste problem.

    If you want leather to last decades or centuries you really have to work at it. That's what saddle soap, boot polish and all those specialist oils and other coatings and preservatives are for.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  5. #4  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
    New Zealand
    A lot depends on how the leather is made. The common technique is chrome tanning, which makes a durable leather of the kind used for leather clothes. Vegetable tanning uses tannin compounds from tree bark, such as wattyl bark, and is used to make leathers such as saddle leathers. It is also quite durable. Less durable are the white tannages, which use such things as aldehydes for tannage. These make fine leathers.

    The key thing with keeping leather durable is to keep it dry. As Adelady said, put it into a compost heap and it will decay. This is due to the large innoculum of microorganisms, and also to the wet conditions. However, keep any leather under damp conditions, and mould growth is rapid. Wetness equals decay.
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