Enspire leather is a novel take on recycling one of humanity’s oldest industrial materials. Earth911 talks with Frank Fox, cofounder of Sustainable Composites, a Lancaster, Pa.-based company that recycles leather fibers to create new leather that looks, feels, and performs like the real thing. By breaking leather down to individual fibers, the grain of which you can see if you turn over a swatch of leather, Sustainable Composites produces more usable material than traditional leather recovery. The enspire process binds the leather fibers into a material indistinguishable from natural leather. It can be polished or buffed like natural leather and can be used in fashion, furniture, and other applications.
Leather footwear, clothing, accessories, and furniture production are very inefficient. Because leather is cut out of treated hides, as much as 75% of the material is thrown out as scrap during the production of the typical leather item. enspire leather is made using naturally occurring chemicals and results only in wastewater that, Fox explains, “is cleaner than when we take it in from the river.” Sustainable Composites can make enspire without any waste products left over. “It’s more hazardous to process fresh leather than it is to use our material,” he added.
Ednspire leather will eventually cost less than general utility leather — Sustainable Composites collects its leather for free from manufacturers, reducing both the original product waste and carbon footprint in addition to low-carbon production of the next product.