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A cleaner leather industry

Anyone whose lived near a tannery or leather working industry knows that the sewage discharge from these industries is both environmentally unfriendly, carrying many types of pollutants, and unpleasant, as these effluents are highly odorous due to the various reagents used in leather treatment. A project undertaken aims to combine new membrane technology with such processes, in an effort to make leather finishing industries more compliant with the European Community's environmental policies.

Climate Change and Environment

Leather processing, in preparing the multitude of leather products used in a consumer society, gives rise to a variety of different types of pollutants. Though leather is treated in different manners and with different substances depending on the nature of its final product, all leather treatments were discovered to have certain pollutants in common. From animal fats and oils to heavy metal deposits including chrome, calcium and high organic loads. In utilizing new membrane technologies to clear these pollutants from sewage deposits and in an effort to reduce the volume of wastewater, the pilot project confirmed that the process would first require a pre-treatment of the water used. Untreated wastewater from tanneries resulted in silting and degradation and in order to avoid this, it was shown that pre-treating the water with two processes consisting of physical/chemical activated carbon and micro-ultrafiltration was necessary. Subsequently, the reverse osmosis system (Ph/Ch+AC+RO) in sewage discharge resulted in a 75% reduction in water wastage because the recycled water was found suitable when reused in leather finishing industries as there was no degradation of product quality or other undesirable effects to the leather goods. The immediate result of this was a considerable reduction to the volume of sewage and pollutants and an overall 18% savings to the ultimate production costs. Hence, both the pre-treatment of water and the reverse osmosis membranes provide an innovative means in which both leather finishing industries and environmental concerns can benefit and the project developers are currently undertaking means by which they can incorporate this technology into other industries such as textile manufacturing.

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