Skip to main content

Increased leather performance and improved enveronmental aspects of leather manufacture through the application of specific enzymes in the beamhouse


The production of leather from raw skins and hides is a chemical intensive process. Reducing the chemical requirements and time required for processing would increase the profitability of the leather produced. Initial research has shown the that the use of enzyme can reduce chemical requirements and processing times and effluent things. Despite the promised advantages to be gained from the use of enzymes, their use in the leather industry is limited to one specific function, the use of proteases to remove non-collagenous materials from the skin during early processing. This is partly due to the conservative nature of the industry. The introduction of enzymes to the industry has, however, been piecemeal and non-rationalised. As the leather industry is relatively small, it tends to adopt technologies and chemicals from other industries rather than develop them for the specific requirements of the sector. This often results in products that are not ideally suited to the task and performances which are less than ideal. The application of enzymes, particularly lipases and cellulases, fall into this group. It is likely, however, that the development of effective enzyme protocols will reduce processing costs and times, reduce effluent problem and hence increase the profit margin on the final product. It is the aim of this project to : 1. Assess the efficacy of various enzymes at different stages of leather processing. These are to include the use of cellulases to remove dung from hides and skins in the wash, the use of proteases to remove soluble proteins such as dermatan sulphate and hyaluronic acid during soaking and liming and the uses of lipases to remove natural fats. 2. Evaluate the benefits of enzyme application in the reduction of both processing time and chemicals. 3. Determine the effect of enzyme use in processing on both leather quality and yield. 4. Evaluate the effect of enzyme assisted processing on the effluent loading in terms of chemical hazard and biochemical and chemical oxygen demand.

Funding Scheme

EAW - Exploratory awards


Hutchings & Harding Ltd
161-163,High Street
CB2 4HN Sawston, Cambridge
United Kingdom