Eco friendly automotive leather concept7 January 2014
GST/Seton – Corinova is an automotive leather, for eco friendly car con-cepts and eco friendly end consumers for any future vehicles, which was developed by decreasing non renewable ingredients and increasing renewable natural ingredients.
GST/Seton - Corinova is an automotive leather, for eco friendly car con-cepts and eco friendly end consumers for any future vehicles, which was developed by decreasing non renewable ingredients and increasing renewable natural ingredients.
We would like to mention sustainability at the beginning, as we believe that honest sustainable automotive leathers can be produced, but that most of the car companies are not ready yet to accept a "natural leather" with natural ageing and natural differences from hide to hide in their vehicles.
All hides tanned at GST/Seton are coming from farmed animals which are grown for the meat market. Only pre-selected hides are suitable to become one of the valuable and limited available luxury automotive leathers.
It is important to understand that already today automotive leather is eco friendly.
- - Approximately 75% of leather is based on renewable natural ingredients and renewable collagen fibres.
- - Approximately 10-15% is water, depending on the softness of leather.
- - Approximately 10-15% are chemicals, depending on the tanning pro-cess, and half of the chemicals used now are based on renewable re-sources.
Starting with the hides, GST/Seton Germany source local partners which re-sults in short travel distances for the animals from the farms to the abattoir and short travel for the hides to the beamhouse factory. All hides we use are fresh hides without any usage of conservation. All this has a positive effect on the environment.
Our contract tannery for the first tanning phase in Germany has been given several awards for its environmental and ecological engagements. This tan-nery is one of the first worldwide, using oil and grease, side products from the tanning process - after a special clarification - for the purpose of heat-ing the factory buildings and for warm water production.
In today's automotive tanneries, there are mainly three different tanning methods:
- - Wet-blue (chrome tannage)
- - Wet-white (glutardialdehyde or THPS)
- - Vegetable tanning (veg extracts/wood or other plant sources)
In research, we decided to use vegetable tanning with a wet-white pre-tanning, to benefit the required properties for automotive leather (eg reduced shrinkage) and the recycle-ability or downgrading properties after lifecycle in which the leather can be transformed (eg isolation material).
Another reason to choose these tannin extracts is that the leftovers in the wastewater are easy to reduce into smaller parts and, therefore, they can be better digested by bacterial reactors of a water treatment plant.
Looking at dyestuffs, we still use industrial dyes from natural sources such as wood extracts, and blue and yellow wood. Light fastness performance is limited. We continue to improve in order to meet automotive specifications.
In the creation phase of Corinova we faced a lot of challenges. What is the right choice, how much effect has the choice of one particular product on the eco balance? How much energy is used in creating this or that product?
There are some new tanning products available from renewable resources. High amounts of energy are needed to create these products for the leather industry. At this point we have to ask the question if that is the right choice.
We need to ask the same question for some other products where a certain amount of that product is available, but if worldwide consumption would rise above the level of natural availability, the product would then change from eco-friendly to non eco-friendly. For example, the risk of creating monocul-tures or the misuse of ingredients which are needed for other, more life important needs like food. We intentionally did not use fish oil and tried to eliminate the use of refined products as far as possible. Today some emulsifiers cannot be replaced.
We know that in the near future the wet-blue or wet-white tannage will still be the common way of leather production. The main reason is that there are not enough vegetable tanning ingredients available yet for a global switch to vegetable tanning.
On the finishing side in-house GST/Seton tannery we were facing other challenges.
Using only natural binders is limiting the wear properties. We were looking for a sensitive mix of natural binders together with high tech PUs and Acrylics to get the best performances in using as little finish as possible and having as little coverage as possible. The amount applied is about half of today's automotive semi-aniline.
The result of this development is a smooth yet firm leather article, which has a rich and round body. Natural characteristics such as growth marks or neck wrinkles are a part of this article and get blended in with the finish we use.
Due to very compact lead-in processes and run time optimised recipes in production for ECO-Line leathers, we were able to achieve a further reduction on "high/brand marks" like water and electricity consumption on these leathers.
Corinova, with its characteristics, reminds us of the classic vegetable tanned ultra luxury vachette leathers that are used for leather goods. Each hide is unique, which is a sign of authenticity and supports the idea of individualisation. The leathers can currently be produced in black and dark brown shades.
In the development of GST/Seton - Corinova, we have created a superior eco-friendly product. If the environment matters, leather can be one of the first consumer choices if produced in an eco-friendly manner.