Company develops process to recycle leather

Sustainable Composites is turning leather scraps discarded by manufacturers into a product it calls enspire leather.


A Pennsylvania company has developed a process to recycle leather, and the founders say it's a way to help the environment.

Tons of leather scraps are discarded each year by manufacturers of everything from boots to bags. Those scraps often end up in landfills.

Sustainable Composites is now recycling a lot of that leather into a product it calls enspire leather.

"We have a couple different companies working with now, taking their stuff and recycling it," Franklin Fox said.

A lot of the scrap the company is using comes from Wilson, as in Wilson football. It's what is leftover from the manufacturing process.

"We are able to truly reconstitute another material, something that's thrown away, and bring it back to its original state," Fox said.

Tommy Tyman, whose father helped develop the process, works in the company test lab.

The leather scraps are ground up into a kind of fiber fluff. It's mixed with chemicals to create a slurry, which is later dried and pressed into recycled leather sheets.

"I think that it's really interesting. It has a lot of potentials to reduce waste," Tyman said.

The manufacturing is done in New York, producing four-by-eight sheets in different colors and textures.

The company has made a number of prototype products with the material.

While it may have the look, feel and smell of leather, it can't be called leather.

"If you call it leather, legally it has to be coming off a cow," Fox said.

Enspire leather costs about 30% less than real leather.