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A Dutch company is making mango to leather

A Dutch company named Fruitleather is bringing vegan leather from mangoes that would otherwise be thrashed away.

vegan leather
Figure: A Dutch company named Fruitleather is bringing vegan leather from mangoes that would otherwise be thrashed away.

Hugo de Boon and Koen Meerkerk the co-founder of Fruitleather first came up with the concept for Fruitleather back in 2015. Hugo and his family have been in the leather business since 1952, but this is the first time they have processed vegan leather. The co-founder’s dream will decrease food waste while making the leather industry further environmentally friendly.

The vegan leather is made from thousands of mangoes that would otherwise be thrown away. Now, this waste is utilizing to make wallets, handbags, and shoes.

Hugo de Boon the cofounder of Fruitleather told that they yearned to turn something valueless into something that has significance. Ultimately, after a bunch of experiments, they came up with the material that they have today.

An enormous part of this process was deciding which fruit to use. HUGO added when they started, did not know that a particular fruit might lead to a better material, precisely in such a way, they even attempted processing watermelons but they found that there is not a lot of fibers inside the watermelon, it is mainly water.

Koen Meerkerk asserted, later they found out more than half of the mangoes in Europe are imported or traded by the Netherlands, and around 12% of them in the Netherlands are wasted. So, it becomes easier for us to get a very large amount, of resources to make our material that is why we decided to stick with the mango.

Fruitleather collects around 1,500 mangoes each week from a Dutch importer. At first, they cut the mangoes and put the mangoes in a machine and de-stones it then crushes the fruit into a pulp.

Then they transfer the mixture of pumps through a tube into a large vat. Then mixes several additives that turn the mango pulp into a leather-like material. They use a meter to check if their material’s measurements are right. When it looks right, they pour the mixture onto metal baking trays and smooths it out to create an even thickness.

Then the trays go in a dehydrator overnight. Before drying it always has this light cream color. But after drying it tends to look very different based on the type of mango. So, for instance, a Palmer mango will give a more brownish material.

Keitt mango will give a more, black material. Finally, the sheets go to a leather-finishing facility to be coated in a protective glaze.

Koen Meerkerk explained they are using the same process of making leather but with different materials, so it responds differently to heat or to do finishing products. First, they measure the thickness of each sheet.

Then they mix resins to make the coating, and it makes a little film on top of the sheets. So, it will be protected from the elements. A machine presses a thin layer of protective coating onto the leather.

When the sheets pass through, they go on to a conveyor, and that will roll into an oven. The 100°C heat helps the coating dry. Then the sheet hangs on racks to cool and dry completely.

Each one undergoes this process multiple times to make it more durable. After that, another machine applies heat and pressure to combine the layers of coating.

The final step of producing vegan leather is the design. For this process, they use an embossing machine that can make the leather look and feel like animal skin. Then the leather is sold to designers around the world.

Hugo and Koen also wish to diminish emissions of poisonous chemicals another way. They saw that all

kinds of chemicals were being used to tan the leather with all CO2 that comes from the tanning process. The chemicals used to tan leather can be toxic to both humans and the environment. There are also the methane emissions that come from raising cattle.

Hugo meant, if they reduce the number of cows, it’ll also reduce the number of greenhouse gases. But some experts say it is not that simple.

Elizabeth Cline (Director of Advocacy and Policy Remake) said that leather is not primarily what is driving the cattle industry. She believes that there is a pretty compelling argument to be made that as long as beef production is continuing, that we should make use of these hides.

“We do need these new alternative materials that have just a different environmental profile and hopefully a smaller carbon imprint. Vegan leather also comes with its challenges. Although some of it is made from mushrooms or pineapples, most are made from plastic. And this still leaves a large carbon footprint,” Cline added.

Koen spoke of that people started realizing that polyurethane leather, which is made from oil, is not the solution.

In 2020, the synthetic leather market was valued at over $30 billion, and one study predicts it will grow to over $40 billion in the next six years. But that is still only a fraction of the leather industry, which was valued at nearly $400 billion, which is 13 times more than its synthetic counterpart.

But for small companies like Fruitleather, it is hard to compete. Right now, Fruit leather is only able to produce 80 square meters of leather per month. That is about 250 pairs of shoes. The final products costs around $22 per square foot. And the small size of each sheet means the company can only make certain products.

Fruitleather wants to work towards creating the material on a giant roll for increasing their production capacity, but also expand the range of products that the material can be applied to.

Hugo said that mango leather also does not last as long as traditional leather. The upholstery of a car needs to last like 10 years. This is something it would not be able to withstand now.

But they are still working to make the product more durable, and their goal is not to suddenly replace a product that has been around for thousands of years.  Still, they are aiming to make leather production easier on the environment, one mango at a time.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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