The Cost of Leather

by Prithvi S.

With the advent of the twenty-first century, it is evident that the population has reached a new peak. Consequently, the demand for products has almost doubled or even tripled in the past decade. Furthermore, it is not even an exaggeration to speculate that the rate at which the demand for various products is raising is exponential. Although this might be fodder for industries to expand and escalate their productions and their workspace, this accelerated growth we have been experiencing for the past decade has many detrimental factors viewing from both an economic and an environmental angle. A prime example of the above archetype is the leather industry of India. This article aims at enumerating three subtle yet vital factors which best exhibits the ramifications of the leathering sector.

Firstly, the most integral part of a thriving industry is the resource it consumes. Especially, when it comes to the leather industry, it requires enormous amounts of resources. Furthermore, resources like feed, pastureland, water, and fossil fuels are the ideal requirements for starting a leather factory. At first look, these prerequisites might look trivial and easily met. Nevertheless, take into consideration that these are the main requirements for “starting” a leather factory and are not ideal for “building” or “expanding” it. Moreover, for expanding the industry the demand for the resources triples or quadruples. Additionally, the increasing demand for leather products also creates a situation that calls for more animal slaughter to meet the demand. Thus, even though leather products are euphemized as “eco-friendly”, it is wise to consider knowing the facts about a product before buying it.

Secondly, the waste disposal system in an industry also plays a vital role in determining the efficiency at which the industry functions. Additionally, this factor also ensures that the environment that the factory is present is not polluted. In the leather industry’s case, the poor waste disposal systems employed by the subsequent industries make it unfavorable to effectively purify the water that is released out. Apart from this, livestock plays a vital role in causing pollution since it is the main resource used in this industry. It was reported by PETA that animals on factory farms produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population. Also, EPA has acknowledged that livestock pollution poses a great threat to waterways. Furthermore, this fact combined with the inefficient waste management processes in the industries has a wide magnitude of ramifications ranging from diseases to severe ecological impacts.

Finally, the proper use of chemicals also dictates the efficiency of an industry. From this perspective, the leathering industry uses chemicals to an extensive degree. Some of the most prevalently used chemicals are mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, Dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based. When not treated properly these chemicals may have a carcinogenic impact on a wide array of people of different age groups. Other than that, this expedited growth of the leathering industry also has an enormous ecological impact in the form of deforestation. For instance, in the last half-century, almost 70 percent of the amazon rainforest cover has been cleared for meeting the demand for pastures or growing feed crops. Ergo, deforestation and chemicals can cause the loss of the ecological balance.

In summary, though the growth of the leather industry is a matter to rejoice in, the disadvantages of this expansion heavily outweigh the advantages. The alternative that I could come up with for this crux is to look for smart and innovative ways to substitute traditional leather. For example, in recent times vegan leather is quite popular since it is cost-efficient, more sustainable, and requires comparatively fewer resources. Moreover, the principal advantage it offers is the total nullification of the animal slaughter involved in the conventional methods. Hence, it is appropriate to conclude that innovation is the key to the future of the leather industry.

Published by LakesOfIndia

Lakes of India is an E.F.I initiative aimed at sensitizing the larger public on freshwater habitats across the country. A blog platform where one can read about lakes across India. You can become a guest blogger to write about a lake in your hometown and initiate an action to protect that lake.

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