Vegan Leather Pt. 1: Pineapple.
Could the Pineapple plant really offer a viable alternative to animal leather?
The fur industry has had a long history of conflict with animal rights groups due to their methods of production, but leather hasn't received quite the same level of attention. We know fur comes from skinning animals, but so does leather. It doesn't take much to understand why neither of these products can be produced humanely; a quick Google search can provide more gruesome details than one would like to know (I won't post them here).
What if there were an alternative material? One that provided the same or similar quality and texture without the suffering of animals and factory workers alike?
Dr. Carmen Hijosa, in cooperation with the materials company Ananas Anam, has developed a leather made from the fibers within the leaves of the Pineapple plant. They call the finished product, which is nearly identical to real leather, Piñatex.
Pineapples are a large industry in the Philippines, with the leaves and fibers often being left to rot as a waste-product. Piñatex takes advantage of this as its raw material. The fibers are collected and shipped to Spain, where they are then processed into the durable leather alternative. This reduces the costs to labor and environment when compared to animal leather, while increasing revenue to workers in the Philippines.
This leather alternative can be made into any product that traditional leather can, including fashion and clothing, automotive and aeronautical products, and home furnishings, all without the immense suffering of animals, or the need for intensive chemical tanning processes like those in the leather factories of Bangladesh.
Utne Reader quotes an article in the Economist:
Electric-blue rivers of effluent gushing out of every tannery wall; a frothy, noxious cocktail of lead, chrome syntans, mercury, cadmium, and corrosive acids that creeps along the open drains under the stilted homes of neighbouring slums, and then straight into the Dhaka’s primary river, the Buriganga.
Piñatex is undergoing further development, but you should keep an eye open for it and other alternative materials available for purchase.