What is eco leather?

As consumers become more aware of their individual and collective impact on the environment, many have begun making more mindful choices. About what they buy and consume, and how it’s produced. Leather is no exception and, having done their research, many turn to alternatives instead. From plant-based textiles to recycled leather, there are number of options created with an environment-first approach. In this blog, we’ll explore what eco leather is, what it’s made from and how it could benefit you.

What is eco leather?

Eco leather is a category of textile, designed to achieve leather-like qualities with a lower environmental footprint than traditional leather. Traditional leather is known for its soft touch, luxurious appearance and durability. Eco leathers seek to create the same end result, using less harmful substances and fewer natural resources.

Despite animal skin being a natural material, the manufacturing process of leather as we know it involves chemicals that eliminate its biodegradable properties. Coupled with the fact that, on average up to 75% of all leather is unutilised and sent to landfill, it creates an enormous amount of waste that does not easily decompose.

Taking the view that leather is a by-product of the meat industry, in 2016 in the US alone over 30 million cattle were killed for their meat [1] . To raise, feed and look after them, an enormous amount of food and land is required. In Brazil, 2.7 million acres of Amazon rainforest was decimated in 2020 alone [2], to make way for grazing pastures and fields for growing feed crops. The high CO2 emissions produced by millions of cattle and other farm animals contribute towards damaging the planet, too.

Leather (or animal skin) in its natural state is not harmful to the environment. Without chemical processing,  it could biodegrade. The earliest records of leather being used by humans date back to 1300 BC. But over time, the quantities and ways of processing the material have grown and evolved meaning today’s leather comes with a hefty environmental price tag. And yet, it’s still the material of choice within the high-end fashion, footwear, apparel, automotive and other industries. Fortunately there is a way to compromise our love of luxury and our duty to protect the environment.

Up to 75% of all hides are discarded due (amongst other reasons) to imperfections that naturally occur. With them, the land, water and carbon used to make them. Recycled leather (a type of eco leather), tackles this waste by repurposing it. Milling it into individual leather fibres and reforming it into rolls of recycled leather, giving new life to leather waste.

Recycled leather takes something destined for landfill and gives it a new purpose.

What are eco leathers made out of?

The idea behind eco leather in general is that it mimics the look, feel and performance of traditional leather without the need to be made from 100% hide. Vegan leather, for example, is predominantly made from PVC and/or PU. PVC is largely made from plastic. PU leather is a mixed-composite material. It includes joining polymer resins to a textile backing such as cotton, nylon or polyester. It doesn’t harm animals, but it can present other problems for the environment in the longer term. Plastics take a long time to degrade and even that process has a negative impact on the environment.

Recycled leather is another type of eco leather. It’s a sustainable way to source and produce a leather-based material. It takes waste out of the system and produces a leather textile that is lightweight, durable and just as luxurious. Meaning it can be used for many years to come without loss of quality over time.

What makes ELeather eco-friendly?

At ELeather we’ve changed the narrative around using leather waste. We turn waste leather into a luxury material for the climate conscious. It’s sustainable, lightweight and long-lasting, without taking it out on the planet.

ELeather is environmentally-friendly for a number of reasons. So far we’ve recycled over 8,000 tonnes of leather waste (that’s almost as heavy as the Eiffel Tower[3]). Our production method reduces CO2 emissions by over 60% (compared to traditional leather). It also saves 55% of natural resources such as water and land. We use 100% renewable electricity and recycle 95% of the water used in our production process. We entangle leather fibres around a high-performance core using just high-pressure water. We call this process ‘hydroentanglement’. The result is ELeather. Recycled leather. Engineered sustainably. A luxury material, that doesn’t cost the planet. Giving consumers a chance to enjoy luxury with a clear conscience. And all this data is backed by a full Life Cycle Assessment.


Want to know more about recycled leather? Read more here.

Eco leather is a part of the Sustainable Material Revolution.



[1] https://faunalytics.org/global-cow-slaughter-statistics-and-charts/

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/tropical-forest-destroyed-b1814083.html

[3] “8,000 tonnes” The Measure of Things, 2022,

[4] https://www.hungertv.com/editorial/the-environmental-impact-of-the-leather-industry/