Vegan leather is the newest alternative to artificial leather. From shoes, to jackets, to purses, vegan leather is everywhere. But is it really a good alternative? Your about to find out the hard truth about vegan leather and what it’s really made of. What you decide to do with this information is up to you, but we hope you decide to use it wisely.
What is Vegan Leather Made Of?
The most commonly used materials for synthetic leathers are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), which are plastic based materials. Another term for fake leather is “pleather” which comes from the term plastic leather. These two commonly used synthetic materials have raised questions about the safety and dangers of vegan leather to the environment. Very few vegan leathers are actually made from natural materials (about ten percent).
Although PVC is in much less use than it was in the 1960’s and 70’s, it can still be found in a majority of vegan leather. PVC releases dioxins, which are potentially dangerous in confined spaces and especially dangerous if burnt. It also uses chemicals to make it softer and more flexible. Depending on the type of phthalate used, they are extremely toxic. It has been described by Greenpeace as the “single most environmentally damaging type of plastic”.
The more modern and slightly less damaging plastic is PU (polyurethane), which is currently being technically developed to reduce its flaws, such as the hazardous toxins it releases during manufacturing, and the oil based polymers it’s made with which benefit fossil fuels.
The manufacture of synthetic leather is not beneficial to the environment or humans because of the toxins in the plastics used to make them. The PVC-based synthetics let out hazardous dioxins, which can cause developmental and reproductive issues and even cause cancer. The synthetics used in vegan leathers also do not fully biodegrade, and they can also release toxic particles, which can affect the health of animals and the environment.
“Not many people know that lots of our clothes are made of plastic,” says Imogen Napper, a PhD student at Plymouth University. Ms. Napper studies marine micro plastics. In a recent lab study, she found that polyester and acrylic clothing shed thousands of plastic fibres each time it’s washed- sending another source of plastic pollution down the drain and then into the ocean. “They’re going down the drain, so they are making their way into the sewage treatment works and maybe, from there, into the marine environment.” With that being said washing clothes could be a significant source of plastic microfibers in the ocean.
In all honesty, the best solution to Vegan Leather is to simply not wear any Leather at all. If you still want to invest in leather, we highly recommend Desserto’s Cactus Leather, this is a company founded by two brothers who have created leather through nopal cactus leaves. Their invention could be revolutionary in the vegan leather industry, as it is making vegan leather more sustainable. Also, Stella McCartneywho is now beginning to invest in lab grown leather, which means they use yeast bacteria which grows collagen that is then assembled into a fibrous material. However, there are also plenty of clothes out there that are less harmful for the environment (that are not leather) and are your best bet for eco-friendly and reusable clothing materials:
Linen. Easy to make and can be composted or recycled into paper, lasts for a very long time.
Hemp. Hemp doesn’t need much fertilizer or pesticides and is derived from plants.
Organic Cotton. Grown without harmful chemicals and uses far less water to grow.
** Food for thought: At the end of the day only buy clothes that you NEED and try washing clothes only when you need to as well. This way you will save water, prevent extra chemicals from going down the drain, and help the environment and the ocean continue to stay healthy and thrive to the best of your ability. Additionally you can look into thrift shopping for natural leather or even looking into vintage leather, as these products have already been made and the money you pay for them does not go into the companies that make leather.
After reading our post, what’s your opinion on vegan leather? Let us know in the comments below!