Plastics and toxins in leather alternatives

Plastics and toxins in leather alternatives

In an article that will come as no surprise to visitors to this site, HowCork has published a blog stating that “some plant-based leathers might not be so eco-friendly after all”. HowCork, which describes itself as an “online store dedicated to promoting sustainability and conscience in the world of fashion”, poses the question “Are plant-based vegan leather manufacturers telling the whole truth about how their materials are made?”, and goes on to take the lid off some of the most well-known plant based materials which claim to be alternatives to genuine leather. The answer to their question: yes, manufacturers are definitely NOT telling the whole truth about their vegan products.

Cactus leather is mostly plastic

Take ‘cactus leather’ for example. It sounds like it’s just made of cactus but, according to HowCork’s research, “the main ingredient in Desserto cactus leather is polyurethane”. In fact cactus makes up only 30% of the material by weight. As we have reported before, many plant-based materials depend on plastics to help with their performance – it’s literally what holds them together. So while calling something ‘cactus leather’ sounds very green, it is in fact far from the truth. 

‘Partially biodegradable’? That’s just greenwashing

Worst of all, the article states that “the polyurethane content in the material cannot be separated from the plant material” so it cannot be disposed of in a responsible and sustainable way. While the cactus elements may biodegrade the plastic elements will be around for thousands of years. As HowCork puts it, the phrase “partially biodegradable” is simply greenwashing.

Unsustainable and containing toxins. But still vegan 

To add insult to injury, not only was Desserto found to be plastic-based, but it is also said to “contain five restricted substances including butanone oxime, toluene, free isocyanate, an organic pesticide called folpet and traces of a phthalate plasticiser”. It’s fascinating to note that while a material can contain all these toxins and all that plastic, it is still ‘vegan’. Once again, people need to be made aware that ‘vegan’ in no way automatically means ‘sustainable’ – and, very often, it means quite the opposite.

The article calls for honesty in the promotion and marketing of all materials and we at One4Leather could not agree more. Given a level playing field, genuine leather will consistently outperform synthetic alternatives in terms of both performance and sustainability.

Read the full article here