A Unique Story for a Unique Fabric
The story of Apple leather started in 2004. Alberto Volcan, an inventor from Italy, was looking for ways to use leftover apple waste from the fruit juice and compote industry in Northern Italy.
His first creation was an ecological paper, made using 15% apple waste, that reduced the CO2 impact by 20%-25% compared to other papers. This was just the beginning though, and he saw potential for further commercial products. He decided to join forces with Frumat, a company specialising in the recycling of industrial waste, to take his ideas further.
One of the first projects developed was a vegetable glue, which in itself wasn’t successful. Alberto didn’t give up though, and instead reworked the glue to be placed through a pasta machine. The sheet of fabric created became the basis of apple leather! Developed further and made commercially viable with the help of Frumat, this ecological, breathable, waterproof and durable fabric has been a game changer in the industry.
When apples are pressed for their juice, there are solids left over. This apple pomace, as it’s called, is much too good to be thrown away as organic waste. Due to its high cellulose content, apple pomace is ideal for up-cycling into new fabrics.
How is Apple leather made?
Apple leather is a bio-based material made using the leftover pomace and peel from the fruit juice and compote industry.
Originating from the region of Bolzano in northern Italy, the fabric is created by first taking the recovered apple waste and reducing it to a powder. Once processed, it is sent to a factory located in Florence, where it is combined with polyurethane and coated onto a cotton and polyester canvas.
The apple leather used in our products is made using 50% apple waste mixed with 50% PU, coated onto a cotton/polyester canvas. The result is a durable but soft fabric that is perfect for hardwearing small accessories.
What are the environmental benefits?
One of the most important aspects of using the apple waste is that it is a completely renewable resource. This reduces the CO2 impact significantly compared to faux leather made from 100% fossil fuels.
What makes apple leather even more special is that the renewable resource is also from a natural waste stream. The special apple pomace produced in the industry is classified as a special waste and in most cases ends up in landfill or in some cases burned for fuel.
But wait, isn't adding plastic bad?
As it currently stands, the addition of a plastic plays a pivotal role in the durability of bio-based leathers. Without it, the materials wouldn’t endure the general wear of every day life, and extending the life cycle of a product is an incredibly important aspect of sustainability.
Whether it's grape leather, corn leather, pineapple leather or even mushroom leather, a small amount of plastic is required. Plant-based polyurethanes are progressing however these still contain 30% petroleum-based PU in order to ensure longevity and stability.
As technology progresses, the reliability on plastics will reduce significantly. For now though, it is a key ingredient and will ensure your Oliver Co. products last.
What about real leather?
Aside from the ethical issues concerned with leather, according to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Materials Sustainability Index – which measures impact up to the point of fabrication – leathers have an impact of 176, compared to Polyurethane based fabrics that have a score of 29.9. This is due to its high contribution to global warming, water use and pollution.
Also you shouldn’t forget that leather also requires a considerable amount of chemicals to ensure that it doesn’t biodegrade during use. There are certainly more sustainable leathers being produced, however you must ensure you research a company's processes and ethics fully before purchasing.
Where is it made?