Lancaster-based Sustainable Composites LLC has developed proprietary technology to recycle leather scraps and turn them back into a useable leather product called Enspire leather.
The company used the letter 'E' in the product name to underline the product's environmental benefits. Enspire Leather has the same look, feel, and functionality as natural hide leather, but it's even better because it comes rolled in sheets, hence generating less waste on the cutting room floor.
Our recent interaction with Tom Tymon, Co-founder of Sustainable Composites LLC, talks about their innovative product Enspire leather and how it is better than other leather alternatives available in the market.
YnFx: What led to the creation of Enspire leather?
Tymon: My partner, Frank Fox, was President and CEO, and I was an executive, at a company that made wet-laid composites for a range of industrial applications. Because of our company's technical and manufacturing capability, one of our suppliers introduced us to a company that was looking at ways to take waste from various industries and convert them into value-added products. We worked with them on a project involving leather shavings. This project was not successful but made us aware of the environmental issues associated with leather waste, the magnitude of the problem, and the interest in the market for the right solution. Frank has an engineering and Science background, and I am a Chemist and we thought we could develop a solution. So, we left our previous company and pursued this opportunity.
YnFx: What were the challenges faced while developing Enspire leather?
Tymon: Leather has achieved its status in consumer goods because of its luxurious qualitative attributes combined with its durability and robust physical performance properties. We have found that to obtain the qualitative objectives no other fibers than leather fibers could be used and that achieving the physical properties with this approach had never been done before. It took several years to develop a laboratory-scale solution. Taking this to large-scale production involved another level of serious challenges. This has resulted in several patents and a portfolio of trade secret technology.
YnFx: What makes Enspire leather unique from the other leather alternatives available in the market?
Tymon: There is no other material that contains only fibers from waste leather that provides the characteristics that manufacturers and consumers expect from leather. Enspire can be finished using the same techniques used to finish traditional leather, whether it is an aniline type of finish, a pull-up finish, or a coated finish, and can be softened using dry milling, etc. like traditional leather. This means leather users' existing supply chain could be used and existing leather tanneries/finishers have a new material to use. It is the only alternative that approaches the attributes that make leather so desirable.
YnFx: What sustainable measures has the company taken in its production process?
Tymon: We are RCS certified.
The process we use is water-based in which water in the process is recycled within the process, uses no restricted substances, is made in the US and complies with strict environmental regulations in force in the locations where it is produced.
YnFx: What is the environmental footprint of Enspire leather?
Tymon: Enspire leather is based on waste materials that would normally go to landfills.
Compared to traditional leather it has significantly lower global warming potential and reduced carbon footprint.
As stated above it contains no restricted substances nor does it contain PVC, polyurethane or other materials that are often of concern.
YnFx: What are the future plans of the company?
Tymon: We are currently focused on introducing Enspire Leather to the marketplace and working with customers to meet their needs.
A number of customers have expressed interest in using the leather waste they create to be converted into a version of Enspire which they could use in their products for a truly 360-degree recycled process.
We are continuously conducting R&D to expand the potential of our unique technology.
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