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Environmental Sustainability of Importance to Italian Leather Industry

zilli, guido, dani spaLeather tanning is one of the oldest industries in the world, whose products find application in numerous fields like fashion, furniture design, car manufacturing, and aviation, among others. The established leader in this market on the international level is Italy, with its major tanneries concentrated in three regions: Veneto, Tuscany and Campania. The leather products made in Italy are exported worldwide in more than 100 countries and are recognized as a symbol of quality, luxury and tradition.

Tradition is one of the pillars of Italian leather industry, where leather processing still pays great attention to every production step, using craft techniques passed on from generation to generation.

Another aspect of this industry is technological innovation. Maintaining leadership in such a competitive market requires constant scientific research and advanced modern technology.

It is not just about quality dyes and sophisticated elaboration techniques; it is crucial to guarantee the environmental sustainability of this key industrial sector through technological and organizational innovation in the environmental field.

The production process

Leather processing is divided into several stages that take about a month, at the end of which the by-product of the food industry gets transformed into a noble and precious material.

After the preliminary control of the raw hides, the so-called beamhouse operations take place: hides undergo a series of mechanical operations and chemical treatments in drums aimed at rehydrating and unhairing the hides. Then the stages of fleshing and splitting prepare them for tanning.

Tanning, the process that gives name to the whole industry, consists in treating the hides in wooden drums with tanning substances that transform the raw fibers into a durable product. Tanning is followed by mechanical operations such as sammying, splitting and shaving.

Afterwards the hides go through the processes of retanning, dyeing and fatliquoring carried out in drums, that give the leather hides specific properties such as fullness, texture, softness and color.

Once dyed, the skins get dried using different techniques depending on the required characteristics of the final product (aerial chain, vacuum, toggling). The dried hides get softened by a staking machine, that stretches and lubricates the leather. At this stage the hides are called “crust.”

Finishing is the last stage at which the desired qualities of leather get enhanced. Various operations like buffing, dry milling, embossing and spraying take place. A film of colors, protective resins, waxes and filming agents is applied to the leather that acquires its final look and properties.

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