Life cycle assessment of leather garments products focuses on the manufacturers, who are responsible for the release and emission of toxic materials during the processing. Manufacture of leather garments is a global industry which is currently increasing at a faster rate, more than the worldwide population growth. The emerging economies motivate the manufacturers, but their operations have had some negative impacts through their chain of production, distribution, consumption, and emission of water materials on the environment. This article examines Leather garments product, the packaging materials used, the process involved in its manufacture, the recycling flow chart used by the industry producing leather garments, the impact of the resource used by the industry, and the measures to minimize the adverse effects caused by the production of the product.
According to Collins, Huey & Gracey (2015), life cycle assessment refers to the process used in evaluating the ecological problems linked with the production system, through identifying and describing the energy materials used, and the waste products released to the environment. Life cycle assessment also analyzes the impacts of materials used such as the chemical substance materials.
Materials Used in the Production and Packaging of Leather Garments
According to Auerbach (2011), leather garments are products which are highly demanded by the higher and middle-income population. The manufacturing companies specializing in the production of trousers, caps, coats and also belts that come in different shapes, color and size. Various materials such as elastic band, lining fabric, cutting machine, sewing thread, buttons, shoulder pads, suede leather, zippers, glue, water, and electricity are used to make the garment. Threads are used to stitch the leather garments, with cotton fabrics, buttons, and zippers. Glue is also used to close the joints and stitch the leather together with the fabric, while water is used to wash and clean the garments. The materials are intended to prevent precipitation and permit perspiration. Moreover, the laminate fabric is used to bond a waterproof sheath with on the exterior garments.
The Process Involved in Making the Leather Garments
The manufacturing process of leather garments involves a complex unit operation, where machines are used to cut, sew, make buttonholes and fix. Procurement of leather materials from the slaughterhouse and cotton from factories is the first step in making leather garments. The leather garments factory buys hide from a slaughterhouse and stores them in their tanning factories within the company. The tanning department then begins to salt the rawhides, soaks it in lime, shaving the hairs, washes it with warm water, and then dried. The next sage is the cutting area. Pieces of leather are measured according to the size and the shape of the cloth, cut using a silken machine, sewed inserted trademark and brand patterns. The patterns are made with the units of general patterns and modified to suit the size, shape, and demand of the garments. The lining is the first process of making leather garments. The lining is necessary for garments like jackets, trousers, and coats, because it increases or decreases, depending on the size of the leather. The Leather can be combined with other material such as a cotton fabric which is knitted together, to regulate body heat and keep clothing dry. Moreover, the fabric prevents the accumulation of perspiration within the cloth throughout the exertion in a rainy environment. The leather garments are then packaged in nylon bags and distributed to shops for sale (Notarnicola et al., 2011).
Figure 1: a Flow chart for leather garments production
The flow charts for leather garments production, begins with trimming and soaking, to sort the leather according to the required thickness, size and weight, which is then dipped into a container filled with detergents, bactericides, and water, to soften the hide and remove the flesh and the hair, using a process called tanning. The hair can also be removed using lime and chemical spray, salt, or sulphuric acid. The leather product is then washed, dried and shaved using a band knife which cuts the skins to a uniform thickness and size. The hides are sprayed using soap and water and left to hang for several days, then placed in machines designed to loosen and make the leather fabric more flexible. The hide is then used to make leather garments using a fast sewing machine. The garment manufacturer employs numerous designs which focus on creating clothing patterns. The tanned leather is then placed on cutting device which splits the leather into various shapes and sizes, then stitched to create armholes, sleeve, collar and pockets (Dean, 2011).
The manufacture of leather garments requires inputs such as water, and electricity to soak, wash and also dry the leather garments after the production. Moreover, the processing of the garments uses chemicals such as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, phosphates and organic acids which minimizes the number of pathogens, and prevents contamination. Trisodium phosphate is used to reduce the incidence of salmonella contamination. Essentially, various categories of output materials arise from the production of leather garments. These materials include pieces of flesh and hair, blood, salty water, and sulfide, which leads to environmental pollution if it is not disposed of correctly (Collins et al., 2015).
Figure 2: Input and outputs from leather processing for leather garments production
Impact Caused By the Use of Leather Garments and Its Emissions
The use of a leather jacket has no negative effect on the environment; however, its manufacture and production, causes adverse effects on the environment. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (2019), claims that industries are manufacturing leather garments, depends on farm animals such as cows, and produces waste a hundred times more than the entire human population. A majority of the animal factory producing the leather, operates without waste treatment plants, thus threatening the waterways. Additionally, leather factories producing materials used to make leather garments use massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals such as dyes, oils, mineral salts, coal tar, and formaldehyde. The compound used, are considered hazardous to human health and also to the environment because it contains a large number of pollutants like acids, lime sludge, sulfides and salt which may lead to contracting long term disease like lung cancer and leukemia.
Recommendations to Minimize Environmental Impacts Linked to the Production of Leather Garments
Muthu (2014), argues that factories that make leather garments should consider using materials which are safe to the environment. The use of lime, dye, salt, and oil, should be replaced with the use of a washable machine to minimize the negative environmental impact from the production of leather. Moreover, garment manufacturers should consider using affluent and efficient chemicals which are biodegradable, and methods that decrease the discharge of solid waste into the environment. The biodegradable methods include installing incineration plants for hazardous waste and landfills.
Leather garments have invested their resources on replacing the machines used to manufacture the leather garments. The companies focus on the production, aims at decreasing the large amounts of salt, bloody water and Sulphur into the rivers or environment, thus reducing the negative impact on the environment.
Auerbach, P. S. (2011). Wilderness Medicine E-Book: Expert Consult Premium Edition – Enhanced Online Features.
Collins, D. S., Huey, R. J., & Gracey, J. F. (2015). Gracey’s meat hygiene. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
Dean, B. (2011). Tanning and Leather Finishing. Retrieved from: http://www.iloencyclopaedia.org/component/k2/item/872-tanning-and-leather-finishing
In Muthu, S. S. (2014). Roadmap to sustainable textiles and clothing: Environmental and social aspects of textiles and clothing supply chain.
Notarnicola, B., Puig, R., Raggi, A., Fullana, P., Tassielli, G., De Camillis, C., & Rius, A. (2011). Life cycle assessment of Italian and Spanish bovine leather production systems. Afinidad, 68(553).
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (2019). Animals are not ours: Environmental Hazards of Leather. Retrieved from: https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/leather-industry/leather-environmental-hazards/