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A Brief History of Leather and Recycling

January 4, 2012

Many people think of recycling as a wholly modern concept. Recycling as people define it today is tied into an “awareness” of the need to provide sustainable solutions for a planet with a growing human population and with shrinking natural resources to meet their needs; a purely 20th and 21st century quandary. But even a brief glimpse into history shows us that this is not the case; that present circumstances are not some lone exception. One need only look at the leather industry to see that recycling and sustainability are truly ancient concepts.

The history of leather is synonymous with the history of recycling. Primitive hunters who stalked their game on the Paleolithic plains made use of animals not onlyLeather Hide for their meat, but also for their hides, bones, and entrails. Few, if any, parts went to waste. Even in 19th and early 20th century slaughterhouses (“abattoirs”), every part of the animal was used, besides, of course, the manure. Soap was one of the major by-products that came from animals butchered for their meat; and – of course – animal hides.

Today environmental regulations in North American tanneries are fairly strict (and fairly so). The pollutants long associated with the full harvesting of animal by-products have been left to other continents to gather. Many of the famous 100 year-old tanneries of Canada, Europe and the United States went belly up in the 1980s and 90s due to the increased pressure of environmentally aware laws.  But some tanneries have been adaptively smart enough both to maintain their business and follow more eco-friendly strictures. We at DCT Leathers have been fortunate enough to partner with one such tannery in Scotland.

Our Scottish friends were not only able to follow the strenuous environmental regulations of the United Kingdom, but were able to do so in a manner that allowed their tannery to flourish and prosper when so many others were forced abroad. We at DCT Leathers are proud to procure our primary leatherwork from Scotland to manufacture everything from desktop leather to car upholstery. Not only is the quality of their leather absolutely world-class, but the stringent ethical policies they uphold are those we ourselves hold dear.  We look forward to a greater effort on the part of the global tanning industry at large in following the lead of our friends in Scotland: masters of their craft, and practitioners of a tanning tradition that finds its roots in none other than the beginning of human history.

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