August 5, 2021

Sustainable Composites offers a new alternative to leather

4 min read

As a way to increase their focus on sustainability efforts, some companies are looking for ways to discard leather scraps and create products made with recycled materials in clothing, shoes and handbags. 

Among them, Sustainable Composites is a company founded by retired scientists Frank Fox and Tom Tymon, a duo that is not indifferent to the growing leather waste problem the world is facing, as they have been working in the materials industry in R&D, production, management and executive positions for almost 60 years altogether, and they have seen the waste that is created.

Tom Tymon, co-founder, Sustainable Composites

Photo: Sustainable Composites

Tom Tymon, co-founder, Sustainable Composites

They have also always been concerned with efficient material utilization. As the world’s population and economies continued to grow, they recognized the pressing need to develop value-added uses for materials which would otherwise be discarded. They identified leather waste as an underutilized material that up until now has generally had an adverse impact on the world’s environment. While some organizations have developed useful products made from leather waste, usually low-value products that do not capture the aesthetics and attributes of leather, through SCL they developed their own patented technology with the aim to deliver a higher-quality and image alternative leather material–Enspire Leather–entirely made of leather scraps only but looking, smelling and feeling like new leather.

Bag and accessories made with Enspire Leather

Photo: Sustainable Composites

Bag and accessories made with Enspire Leather

The expert duo has worked with large fashion brands, including Timberland, and–as a form of collaboration–have recently started a new project together with it by collecting the leather scrap it created for free. They have started recycling it and turned it into a material the brand will be using for a new still-in-progress project.

Fox and Tymon explained more about their new development, their projects and how they aim to reduce leather waste.

Frank Fox, co-founder, Sustainable Composites

Photo: Sustainable Composites

Frank Fox, co-founder, Sustainable Composites

When was Enspire Leather created?
Enspire Leather was first created in 2013 and then advanced to its current high performance product form, which was introduced in late 2019.

What are its main characteristics and why can we say this leather substitute is eco-friendly?
Enspire is created from leather scraps. The scrap segments are sent through mechanical process to create a fiber fluff. This fluff undergoes chemical treatments to release the fibers into an aqueous slurry which is passed through a paper machine process to produce a continuous web of recycled leather which matches the properties of hide leather. No hazardous chemicals are utilized. The process enables 4x global warming potential, a minimum of 70% improvement in carbon footprint and zero burdens associated with hide production and tanning.

Does it hold any certification?
It has achieved Control Union RCS certification.

Enspire Leather samples by Sustainable Composites

Photo: Sustainable Composites

Enspire Leather samples by Sustainable Composites

Can this material be used for every article normally used with new leather?
Yes. Enspire is currently being evaluated in nearly all use applications

What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Enspire Leather meets all the properties of hide leather. While it is made from recycled leather scraps only, it replicates the look, feel, smell and performance of tanned hide at half the cost. However, by some tests, tear resistance can be slightly less than hide leather.

Which brands and companies are using this leather?
Since Enspire has only recently introduced, there is limited use. At present, about 23 fashion companies are using it. For example, currently we are developing a product for Timberland with specific properties.

Are products made with Enspire Leather more or less expensive than those made with regular one?
Enspire total cost of use is significantly less than hide leather.

Could you please tell me more your background and experience?
We are both scientists and engineers, and have an extensive history working in the materials industry. Having held executive positions at our former companies and working hands on in research and development, production, and management, we have always been concerned with efficient material utilization. We identified leather waste as an underutilized material that up until now has generally had an adverse impact on the world’s environment. After five years and millions of dollars invested into research and development, we founded Sustainable Composites, producing material from recycled leather scraps that are as durable and aesthetically pleasing as the hide that leather lovers adore.

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