H2O in the Leather Industry

Leather, it is known, is a fascinating material not only because of its intrinsic properties, but especially because it is the oldest example of a circular economy.

As far back as prehistoric times, humans recovered the hides of hunted animals for food and made from them objects that are part of our culture.
Even today, its processing can be seen as a circular system, it is a fact that leather is a by-product of animal meat slaughter. Indeed, the recovery of raw hides allows the enhancement of a raw material that would otherwise be destroyed and disposed of as waste.
Its use thus avoids the waste of a renewable resource by reducing the need for plastics and other synthetic materials, which are created from nonrenewable resources and contribute to the dispersion of microplastics into the environment and oceans, which are now also found in the food chain.

However, to merit the adjective “sustainable,” it must also meet very stringent social and environmental standards.
Indeed, it becomes irrelevant that leather has these extraordinary intrinsic properties if during its production process it generates more impacts on the environment than it avoids, or if workers are exposed to risks to their health, such as hazardous chemicals.
For this reason, not only must leather meet strict consumer protection criteria but it must also be produced while minimizing air, soil, and water emissions.

Precisely on this last point, in recent months, in particular, the sector has encountered quite a few difficulties due to massive water shortages.
As of today, the amount of water available is progressively decreasing due to climate change, so much so that United Nations experts predict its scarcity by 2025 for more than 5 billion people.

While water shortages are everyone’s problem, including companies, some industries are much more exposed than others: the leather industry is one of them.

Let’s start with some figures: to make a leather bag requires 17,128 liters of water, to make leather boot requires 12,370 liters, and to produce a simple pair of shoes requires 7, 612 liters.

Water, after hides, is in the tannery industry the most important raw material, it is the means through which most processes take place and is both environmentally and economically crucial.
The use of water is necessary for all stages of wet production (riviera, tanning, dyeing, and fattening) and in some auxiliary activities, such as washing and emission abatement.
Wastewater is the most polluting since it is characterized by a high concentration of chemicals and unfortunately characterizes 90% of all process water; the latter must undergo appropriate treatment before it can be discharged into surface waters.

Currently, solutions have been undertaken in this regard through state-of-the-art purification plant engineering, but unfortunately, not all companies are yet keeping up with innovation, which is why there are still very high levels of pollution and water consumption in the tanning sector.

So what to do? Brands need to stop being part of the problem and turn into part of the solution by behaving more responsibly.
This means taking concrete actions to reduce environmental impacts, as every business, large or small, operating within the fashion chain will always continue to have great responsibility and power concerning how it is produced.

By selling products made with upcycled leather we prevent the production of new leather and therefore this is a valid alternative to avoid creating new wastewater from the leather industry.

So keep in mind that when you buy a product from us, you are preventing the waste of precious raw materials such as leather and water.


Zerow stands for Zero Waste. We are a community of companies, artisans, designers and people who love sustainable products. We offer a marketplace where you can buy upcycled products and leftovers and a circular network made to connect companies and artisans for transforming waste into products.

Zerow allows you to sell leftover materials (or pre-production waste) such as textile, leather or other secondary raw materials. Also metal accessories, tools, boxes, machines and everything which can be used for production and sell purposes is welcome. Let’s upcycle it!

Possible refunds and exchanges will be processed within 14 working days upon the arrival into our warehouse.

If you are an artisan or a brand committed to quality, tradition, craftsmanship, and circularity please visit contact us. If you are aligned to our philosophy you will be very welcome to join our marketplace and we will be happy to have you on our side in the fight against waste.

We honor return requests made within 14 days after receiving the original purchase.

Zerow accepts returns of unworn, unwashed, and undamaged items, with no signs of use, for refund. Please note that customized, personalized and exchanged products cannot be returned.

Returns must be packaged in the Zerow box, which must be securely sealed with adhesive tape. In case our box is no longer available, you may use another type of packaging suitable for the shipment of our items.

If the original order was below the 150€ threshold for free shipping the shipping fee will be excluded from the refund. If a partial return brings the total amount paid below 150€, the shipping amount will be deducted from the refund according to your local shipping rate.

It means that there is no stock for that particular product. It will be manufactured only once the order is placed. This helps the reduction of wasted materials and resources. You can find the ‘Crafting time’ in the description of the product.


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