For sustainable society


Cactus leather free from environmental pollution

Do you know how skins and hides become leather? It is to go through the process of “tanning.” By going through the tanning process, animal skins/hides become durable and are turned into supple leather that does not rot, which can be processed into various products such as clothes and bags. Although this “tanning” process is indispensable for leather products, actually in the rivers of Bangladesh and India, where many world’s leading leather tanneries are located, water pollution due to industrial effluent is an issue.

All we can do to address the issue is to choose leather that has undergone the “tanning” process with a low environmental impact. In other words, we should choose “vegetable tanned” leather, also known as eco-leather, that uses plant-based ingredients, rather than “chrome tanned” leather that uses chemicals. However, it is also said that 80% of the leather distributed in the world is chrome tanned leather.

Last year, Mexican startup Adriano Di Marti has succeeded in developing alternative leather “Desserto” made with cactus, which will allow us to choose a more environmentally-friendly leather alternative. Alternative leathers include synthetic and artificial leather. Although they are useful, they are not sustainable materials due to their short useful life and dependence on oil. On the other hand, Desserto has a long life of at least 10 years and high resistance to abrasion and humidity, due to the strong molecular bond of cactus.

The cactus leather was developed by Adrián López and Marte Cázarez from Mexico. They have realized the environmental impact of the industries they had been engaged in for many years, such as the automobile, fashion, and furniture industries, and have established a company to look for leather alternatives. They spent two years researching and designing and finished the product in July 2019. At LINEAPELLE, a leather and textile trade fair, in Italy in October, their leather was highly acclaimed. It was evaluated as the most suitable sustainable material on display for use by luxury brands in terms of softness, texture, and color of the material.

Adrián and Marte focused on two points: that the cactus is grown all over their home country of Mexico and that it does not require water for cultivation. A stable supply of raw materials is essential to produce enough cactus leathers to replace the leathers currently used. It was also important for realizing sustainable production that there was no need to build irrigation facility for cultivation.

Cactuses are grown on fully organic farms, and their mature leaves are harvested every 6-8 months. Since the body is not cut down, it is possible to harvest leaves again after waiting for them grown. After washing, mashing, and drying in sunlight for three days, cactuses are mixed with non-toxic chemicals and shaped at the factory. The retail price is about the same as animal leathers.

Desserto gathered much attention at the trade fair in Milan and is already working on projects with many companies. We may have cactus leathers free of environmental pollution in the not-so-distant future.


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