Lanxess develops new technology recycle leftover leather

Lanxess develop new technology to recycle leftover leather

9:45 AM, 23rd March 2017
Lanxess develops new technology to recycle leftover leather
Modular pilot plant that can use shavings and waste cuts previously disposed of in most cases and organic biomass to create “X-Biomer” brand retanning agents for manufacturing leather. The plant is designed for use directly on-site at tanneries.

COLOGNE, GERMANY: Lanxess is leading a research and development (R&D) project to study an innovative technology for new recycling concept in leather manufacturing.

Under the title “Resource-efficient manufacturing of leather chemicals” (ReeL), Lanxess leather business unit is working with the Leverkusen-based research institute INVITE to develop a modular pilot plant, that can use shavings previously disposed and organic biomass to create X-Biomer brand retanning agents for manufacturing leather.

The manufacturing equipment is designed for use directly on-site at the tanneries. The possibility tests are set to take place with the third project partner, Heller-Leder GmbH Co KG tannery in Hehlen, Germany.

In this way, a tannery would be able to automatically and largely independently manufacture enough retanning agents, such as the X-Biomer range offered by Lanxess, to meet part of its own needs.

The joint project has a total investment volume of around €5 million and was launched in January 2016. Almost half of this investment is provided by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) which runs for three years.

Lanxess is currently working on adapting and optimising procedures in its Leverkusen laboratory to perfect the chemical recycling process. The INVITE research institute is primarily responsible for planning and constructing the pilot plant.

To test the innovative production concept under real conditions, one of these plants will be completed in April 2017, and after some cold commissioning tests to check the process control technology, it will go into feasibility operations at Heller-Leder in mid-2017.

So far, the modular plant concepts designed by INVITE were primarily developed to achieve technological process improvements and flexible, continuous production processes. In this project, the benefits of the concept’s application as decentralised production concept for a mature industry come to the fore for the first time.

“Our goal with this project is to highlight how production waste during leather manufacture can be recycled directly in the tannery, thus significantly improving the sustainability profile compared to the conventional production of retanning agents in centralized production facilities located far away from the tanneries,” said Luis Lopez-Remon, head of the Leather business unit at Lanxess.

“First of all, ‘in situ’ and ‘just in time’ production save an enormous amount of logistics and packaging resources and on top of that there is no need to dispose the production waste as it can serve as raw material for the retanning chemicals required,” said Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer, head of the project, Lanxess.

“For us, this project idea is an important step toward opening up a broader application spectrum. We also see the ReeL project as a significant boost to technology,” said Armin Schweiger, managing director, INVITE.

Complete recycling without emissions

A medium-sized tannery produces between one and two metric tonnes of shavings a day. Using a production plant, eg leased from Lanxess, the company could manufacture a comparable volume of liquid X-Biomer directly on the site. Every trace of the waste is recycled, leaving no residue, and without generating any emissions.

“The goal of the project is to be able to offer X-Biomer to the tanner at a similar cost to the procurement of conventional retanning agents. The lack of logistics outlay should, for example, offset the higher production costs for the design. Piloting is being carried out to verify this concept model. In addition, the project will most certainly benefit sustainability,” added Tegtmeyer.

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