The Hustle

The vegan-leather industry is growing, but is it actually better for the environment?

Vegan leather is the future, but not all of them are environmentally friendly.


August 13, 2019

As a growing number of consumers ditch traditional leather in favor of buying synthetic leather alternatives, a number of faux leather producers have emerged to satisfy demand.

According to Bloomberg, these alt-options to leather are often cheaper. But, when it comes to the environment, it’s worth it to do your research. 

*Googles ‘how to make pleather’?*

Vegan products, which are expected to be a $45B by 2025, are everywhere: Tesla describes its new Model 3 and Model Y as “fully vegan,” and vegan leather is popular in the US footwear industry.

The majority of imitation leather is made from plastic-based polyurethane. But, as the market grows, a variety of companies have developed nature-based products derived from cork, bark, apple peel, and pineapple leaves.

The online availability of vegan leather products has more than doubled in the UK and rose 54% in America between the first half of 2018 and the same period this year.

But is it actually better for the environment?

It depends on the type of synthetic: Plastic-based synthetics aren’t exactly being endorsed by Captain Planet, but plant-based leathers — like those from pineapple leaves and apple peels — can be converted into fertilizer or bio-gas.

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