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Hides & Skins

Hides and skins are an end product of animal production. As an end product – although more correctly they are a by-product – they are an important and valuable resource. In the developing world they are almost never exploited to anything like their full potential. Hides and skins are often thought of as intrinsically unclean and end up being discarded or wasted because of ignorance or misinformation. Others are processed improperly which greatly reduces their potential value.

Hides and skins are a renewable resource of national and international significance. They provide scope for exploitation on a sustainable long-term basis. More particularly, production and marketing of hides and skins provide opportunities to support and sustain livelihoods especially in rural areas. As a resource, hides and skins are the raw materials for various types of businesses – such as collecting, processing and distributing – which provide many service jobs in countries where livestock are produced.

Greater understanding and appreciation of other people’s contribution to the business of hide and skin production – for example under the auspices of trade associations – could help to resolve contentious issues and promote economic cooperation.

Grading of hides and skins by quality

Improvement of hides and skins quality can be achieved only if quality grading norms are applied. The primary producer, as well as the whole chain of related services, including flaying, curing, handling and storing, should be rewarded by better prices for improved quality. The main purpose of this paper prepared in 1991 was therefore to provide a basis for such a quality grading.

Tanning industry is an important segment of UNIDO technical assistance in promoting sustainable development. In late 90-ies a number of studies dealing with various cleaner tanning methods, including the widely used paper The Scope for decreasing pollution load in leather processing, were prepared to support different forms of training activities (shop-floor demonstrations, pilot plants, national and regional workshops etc).

In the meantime a lot of practical experience has been gathered, some new tanning technologies developed and implemented and some new challenges have also emerged.  Since proper training is essential precondition for modern, sustainable leather processing, it is felt that a single, comprehensive paper on cleaner leather technologies, rounding up and updating earlier papers, could be of great help in training and capacity building activities.

In addition to traditional cleaner technologies topics such as pollution sources/loads, water management, hair-save liming, low- or ammonia-free deliming, chrome management, low-organic solvents finishing, solid waste management etc., this comprehensive study addresses virtually all issues relevant for performance and successful tanning operations: tannery environmental management systems (EMS/CSR), Restricted Substances Lists (RSL), energy considerations, mechanical operations, Occupational Safety and Health at workplace (OSH), Carbon Footprint (CF) and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) which are so often the subject of extensive debates in various international fora and media.

The study also includes many tables, charts and (equipment) photos accompanying and illustrating the text.

It is envisaged that the document will serve as a basis for developing globally accessible eLearning courses on sustainable leather manufacture.

There are also other useful information and sources e.g. Tannery of the Future. The Tannery of the Future tool gives tanners an initial indication of the areas in which they need to become more sustainable, e.g. housekeeping, waste management, working conditions and wages. It also provides references to sources of more in-depth information and guidance.