BLC hold annual seminar15 November 2003
BLC Leather Technology Centre held their annual two-day seminar in the picturesque setting of Highgate House located close to Northampton, UK, October 2-3. The format of the seminar changed slightly this year as the first half of the first day was aimed more at the retail sector rather than the tanning industry. The remainder of the seminar was more focused on the leather makers present. The BLC took the opportunity to announce the setting-up of a supervisory board of non-executive directors to oversee the activities of the organisation. This replaces the formerly elected BLC council. The new board will headed by Jonathan Muirhead as chairman and he will hold the office for a two-year term. Muirhead is also chairman of Scottish Tanning Industries. Delegates were shown results and analysis of the latest research and development carried out by the BLC into environmental management, raw materials and beamhouse, and tanning, post tanning and finishing. Some of the highlights included an update from Amanda Long on the test methods for chromium VI (see page 19). Various test methods have been trialled and recommendations on detection limits given to tanners. Tanners were also warned about the current and forthcoming legislation on standards and restricted substance testing by Dr Andrew Hudson. According to Hudson, much of the future legislation on testing could impact heavily on leather producers in terms of costly testing on an extended range of compounds. In terms of ongoing research at BLC and through their collaboration with the British School of Leather Technology (BSLT), a number of interesting papers were presented. Santiago Clara of the BLC explained novel research into a new unhairing method using cysteine. Although far from a practical application, the paper drew interest from delegates. Other papers of note were the latest developments in accelerated CO2 deliming of cattle hides and skins by Dr Karl Flowers of BSLT. Pilot trials had received mixed results with the greatest difficulties being found when deliming thicker substrates. Development of the process is ongoing. In terms of a visual impact, David Langridge's paper on the 'latest advances in hair morphology and the factors effecting unhairing' was interesting. It graphically showed that by using a wide range techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and light microscopy, the reasons for poor unhairing could be seen. He said that some of the main factors affecting clean unhairing included lipid concentrations, hair colour, seasonal differences and preservation techniques used on raw materials. Research is ongoing. A number of the papers will be presented in forthcoming issues of Leather International.