Leather may be supple, comfortable and attractive for apparel, shoes and accessories, but it also has a massive environmental footprint. Leather tanneries use huge quantities of water and chemicals, and the material often processed in countries where regulations are weaker and are held back even further by lax enforcement. In the view of one Gizmodo writer, “leather is slowly killing the people and places that make it.”
Nike, which has already built a strong reputation as a leader in developing innovative fabrics and materials for its apparel and footwear, says it has developed a low-carbon, low-impact leather material that could become “game-changing” for both its performance and role in boosting waste diversion across its supply chain.
“Flyleather,” says the company, is the next FlyKnit. The company cites statistics suggesting that up to 30 percent of the leather derived from animals such as cattle is lost during processing and those scraps end up in landfill. But Nike eliminates that waste stream by gathering those scraps and then shredding them into fibers. Those recycled fibers, in turn, are blended with synthetic fibers via a manufacturing process that combines the materials into the Flyleather product.
Reviews of the material indicate that the material is just as soft as conventional leather while also boasting a similar texture. “Brings cowskin into the 21st century,” crowed Wired Magazine, noting Flyleather’s strength, flexibility and minimal weight.
Nike claims the development of this material was driven partly by the fact that leather has the second-highest impact on both its carbon emissions and water consumption. Flyleather, the company insists, uses 90 percent less water and has a carbon footprint 80 percent lower than the conventional material. Hence, one pair of athletics shoes made with this product has about half the carbon footprint of shoes manufactured out of traditional leather. And instead of coming from a hide, which of course can vary by size, shoes incorporating this material are cut from a roll. The outcome is improved manufacturing efficiency and the elimination of most of the waste associated with shoe production.
To read the full story, visit http://www.triplepundit.com/2017/09/nike-pushes-recycling-big-step-flyleather/.