A Chinese research team has developed a way to convert leather solid waste into fertilizer and other products, solving a problem that has troubled leather companies for years. Led by Wang Quanjie, a professor with Yantai University, the team can liquify leather waste and turn it into organic fertilizer or construction materials such as adhesives, after researchers remove the heavy metal chromium from the leather sludge…Full Article: Xinhua Sept 2017

Key Points

  • China annually produces more than 4.5 billion leather shoes. As a result, approximately 1.4 million MTs of solid leather waste, including 280,000 MTs containing chromium, is also produced. In Shandong Province, leather companies reportedly have to pay CNY 1,000 (USD 150) per metric ton of leather waste disposal.
  • In 2016, China added chromium-tainted waste to its hazardous waste list, prohibiting it from traditional landfill or incineration disposal.

ChinaAg Comments

  • Chromium (i.e. chrome alum and chromium (III) sulfate) is used during the tanning process to convert raw hides and skins into marketable leather.
  • In 2016, for the first time ever, China’s import value of finished (retail) leather products was larger than the import value of its raw materials (raw leather).
  • From 2015 to 2016, China’s leather imports declined 7% in value to USD 8.9 billion.
  • In October 2012, China’s leather industry was facing tough competition from India’s leather industry within the international market owing to China’s increasing production costs and India’s comparable leather quality.
  • In August 2011, Luliang Chemicals was found to have dumped approximately 5,000 MTs of chromium in Yuezhou, Yunnan Province. The resultant pollution run-off negatively impacted the Nanpan River, as well as local fish and livestock.
  • According to a 2011 survey conducted by China’s Ministry of Agriculture, 67.8% of the sampled rice paddy land (or 107,200 hectares out of 182,133 ha) were contaminated with pollutants including cadmium, arsenic, nickel, copper, mercury and chromium. The survey took place in Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Sichuan.

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