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UNIDO has prepared and published over one hundred publications, papers, manuals and guidelines, primarily aimed at technical experts and policy makers in developing countries, though many are used by sector-related institutions and development organizations elsewhere.

The website is intended to provide an easy access to information sources on the leather, footwear and leather products industry, as well as to UNIDO publications related to the leather sector in one place, including earlier publications that were previously only available in hard copy.

This short paper presented during the 14th UNIDO Leather Panel in Zlin/Czech Republic reports on the general situation, issues and methodology adopted as well as practical experience in implementation of occupational safety and health standards (OSH)  at work in tanneries under UNIDO’s Regional Programme for Pollution Control in the Tanning Industry in South East Asia in late 90-ies involving .international and local experts. For a practical OSH manual see the document Occupational Safety and Health Aspects of Leather Manufacture.

This study is primarily focused on the pollution load discharged in effluents and the scope for decreasing that load. In addition to knowing how to produce and sell high quality leather, tanners must also be familiar with techniques for decreasing the pollution load discharged in effluents from individual processing operations. The study aims at heightening tanners’ awareness of those techniques. It calculates the decreases possible in a well-managed tannery processing bovine hides into chrome tanned leathers and describes how pollution load can be reduced by introducing advanced technologies based on low-waste processing methods that have been proven on an industrial scale will be taken into account. The study does not consider industrially unproven and purely experimental methods.

Conventional treatment of tannery effluents does not affect the TDS content (colloquially: salinity); they remain unsuitable for lifestock watering or irrigation which, especially in arid areas, represents a great loss of natural resource. This paper reports on successful irrigation trials with treated effluent from a CETP servicing a cluster of tanneries processing wet blue and crust leather into finished leather and with TDS not exceeding 5000 mg/l and chlorides not exceeding 900 mg/l. Eventually a plot of barren land was converted into a pleasant park-like area.This paper, based on the project implemented by a women-only team, provides information on saline resistant plants and assess their growth properties; and the impact that the continuous application of treated effluent had on the soil and ground water.

Processing of one tonne of raw hides results in approximately 100 kg of wetblue shavings, the utilization and/or safe disposal of which is globally a serious challenge. Currently a part of the chrome shavings is used in the manufacture of leather board by combining with shavings of vegetable tanned leather. There have been also other methods tested and used to convert shavings into sellable product, e.g. application in paper, wood and other industries.

The method described in this report is enzymatic digestion.

Conversion of chrome shavings into usable products employing the technique of enzymatic digestion as developed in the United States of America and already implemented in a 3 tonnes/day commercial plant in the Czech Republic. Three products, namely, gelatable protein, protein hydrolyzate and filter cake are obtained from enzymatic digestion of chrome shavings. While the products obtained find use in construction and plywood industry and also as nitrogenous fertilizer, the chrome-containing filter cake can be used as a reducing agent in the preparation of basic chromium sulphate.

The method was successfully demonstrated at pilot scale in India using wooden tanning drums.

Generally 35-60% of the total solids in tannery sludge is organic matter. A number of solutions for utilization and/or safe disposal of tannery sludge have been proposed, practiced, tested and applied at pilot and industrial scale. Composting is one of these options and this report describes results of tests and application of sludge composting on low, non-mechanized scale together with its utilization as soil conditioner for nonedible plants.

The globalization of the leather industry means that all tanners face the same problems of minimizing the environmental impact of processing and selling into the global market. Regulatory pressures oblige tanners to make continuous improvements in the processing operations. The authorities concerned and consumers look more closely whether hazardous substances such as certain preservatives, some azo dyes and Cr(VI) are present in leather and leather products. The presence of potentially harmful substances attract attention of public media with the risk of developing unfavorable perception about health safety of leather products. In that context materials imported from developing countries are especially critically judged in some reports. Closer monitoring of this aspect has revealed that leather and leather products sometimes contain some hazardous substances like Cr(VI) although only chromium compounds in the form of Cr(III) were used in the tanning process. It has been concluded that this might be result of some undesired reactions in leather itself but the cause was unclear. In this paper, in a very brief form, some results of the investigations about conditions conducive to or inhibiting generation of Cr(VI) in leather are summarized. Also, the results of a series of tests carried out on leathers received from several countries included in UNIDO Regional Programme of Pollution Control in the Tanning Industry in South-East Asia are presented.

Utilization or safe disposal of sludge generated by tannery effluent treatment plants poses a challenge worldwide; landfill disposal should be considered only in case when no other viable option is possible.  Unfortunately, in some areas and/or developing countries properly designed and constructed landfills are not available either.
With the technical assistance of UNIDO, CETP-Ranitec in Ranipet, Tamil Nadu, India, established a low cost pilot scale demonstration landfill in October 1997, the first of its kind in the region. The report describes requirements for a safe landfill disposal and practical recommendations for replication.

In a number of these countries, particularly the least developed countries amongst them, raw hides and skins are among a very few national resources they possess. However, tanning and leather products industries have not received the very high priority they deserve in the national economy. Almost all the national governments concerned have exerted great efforts and spent much capital to build up leather industries; in some cases successfully, but unfortunately often with very unsatisfactory results. Paper prepared for the 3rd UNIDO Leather Panel in 1979 highlights some of the problems.

Typically only a small part of fleshings is used for manufacture of glue and animal protein while the major part is dumped as waste at landfill or disposed of along with other solid wastes. The unutilised fleshings, containing high concentration of lime and sulfide, putrefy and produce obnoxious odour. They also cause groundwater pollution, attract flies, rodents and stray dogs and thus represent a public nuisance. Due to high moisture content handling and transportation of fleshings is quite difficult. On the other hand, one tonne of wet fleshing with 85% moisture is estimated to generate 20-30 m3 of biogas. To solve the disposal problem of fleshings, one of the options considered and tested during UNIDO Regional Programme in South-East Asia was biomethanation. The results of testing at the pilot plant, the first of its kind in the region, are given in this report.