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ECCO Leather Introduces New Water Saving Technology for Tanning

Leather manufacturing could soon become aa less impactful process.

ECCO Leather has taken what it says is “the first solid step towards waterfree leather manufacturing,” unveiling its new DriTan technology internationally.

Though the process of leather tanning has long been thought to be one that wouldn’t be possible without substantial amounts of water, ECCO Leather has set out to shift that paradigm with its new technology.

The result of five years of research and development, DriTan by ECCO Leather uses the moisture already present in the hides, resulting in a tanned hide that is “indistinguishable from traditionally tanned leather in terms of quality, characteristics, stability and lead-time,” the company noted. On top of saving large amounts of water, the technology also minimizes the discharge of waste water and the use of chemicals.

At its tannery in the Netherlands, ECCO Leather said it will eliminate 600 tons of sludge per year, translating into 40 truckloads of sludge per year that would have otherwise been bound for landfill.

“This process only involves what you already have at hand,” Thomas Gøgsig, head of Applied Research at ECCO, said. “You don’t have to invest in new equipment. You don’t have to look for new exotic chemicals. You just use what is already available at the tannery, only in a different way.”

ECCO Leather will unveil the DriTan technology through a special commemorative edition of its classic Soft 8 sneaker at its flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo, coinciding with the World Water Congress 2018 in the Japanese capital.

The leather company tans 1.25 million hides per year to supply leather goods and shoes to more than 2,200 ECCO shops and more than 14,000 sales points worldwide. With DriTan, ECCO Leather saves 20 liters of water per hide, equal to 25 million liters of water annually at its tannery in the Netherlands.

Currently, the company is scaling the technology internally to its tanning operations.

“We hope to find ways to share the new technology with our partners and the industry worldwide. But first, we must learn from how it unrolls in-house,” Gøgsig said. “In fact, DriTan is just the first step in our ambitious scheme to make the entire leather manufacturing process waterfree.”