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The important details for Cork Leather vs Leather and some environmental and ethical arguments

Cork Leather vs Leather

It is important to recognise that there is no straight comparison to be made here. The quality of Cork Leather will depend on the quality of the cork used and that of the material with which it has been backed. Leather comes from many different animals and ranges in quality from composite leather, made from fragments of leather glued and pressed, and often confusingly labelled ‘genuine leather,’ to the finest quality full grain leather.

Environmental and ethical arguments

For many people, the decision about whether to buy cork leather or leather, will be made on ethical and environmental grounds. So, let’s look at the case for cork leather. Cork has been used for at least 5,000 years and the cork forests of Portugal are protected by the world’s first environmental laws, which date back to 1209. The harvesting of cork does not harm the trees from which it is taken, in fact it is beneficial and prolongs their life. No toxic waste is produced in the processing of cork leather and there is no environmental damage associated with cork production. Cork forests absorb 14.7 tons of CO2 per hectare and provide a habitat for thousands of rare and endangered animal species. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the cork forests of Portugal contain the highest level of plant diversity in the world. In the Alentejo region of Portugal 60 plant species were recorded in just one square metre of cork forest. The seven million acres of cork forest, situated around the Mediterranean, absorb 20 million tons of CO2 each year. Cork production provides a livelihood for over 100,000 people around the Mediterranean.

In recent years, the leather industry has come under sustained criticism from organisations like PETA because of its treatment of animals and the damage to the environment caused by leather production. Leather production necessitates the killing of animals, that is an inescapable fact, and for some that will mean that it is an unacceptable product. However, as long as we continue to use animals for dairy and meat production there will be animal hides to be disposed of. There are currently around 270 million dairy cattle in the world, if the hides of these animals were not used for leather they would need to be disposed of in another way, risking considerable environmental damage. Poor farmers in the third world rely on being able to sell their animal hides in order to replenish their dairy stock. The charge that some leather production is damaging to the environment is irrefutable. Chrome tanning which uses toxic chemicals is the fastest and cheapest way to produce leather, but the process seriously damages the environment and puts the health of the workers at risk. A much safer and more environmentally friendly process is vegetable tanning, a traditional method of tanning which uses tree bark. This is a much slower and more expensive method of tanning, but it does not put the workers at risk, and it is not damaging to the environment.

Post time: Aug-01-2022