Cost-effective alternative to animal-based leather

CSIR-NIIST succeeds in developing vegan leather from agro-waste. It can turn mango and pineapple peels, cactus, banana pseudostem, rice straw, vetiver grass into bags, belts, wallets, sandals and pouches

March 11, 2023 06:38 pm | Updated March 12, 2023 12:22 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

A purse made from vegan leather

A purse made from vegan leather

It’s greener, cheaper and quite stylish to boot.

The CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) here has succeeded in developing vegan leather from agro-waste and is preparing to commercialise the technology. NIIST has taken what most people discard as waste – mango peels or the pseudostem of banana, for instance – and turned them into hand bags, footwear, wallets and belts.

Tech-transfer

On Monday, NIIST will transfer the technology for manufacturing vegan leather from cactus to a Mumbai-based company, its first after starting work on this eco-friendly technology a few years ago. The tech-transfer is planned as part of the six-day ‘One Week One Lab’ (OWOL) programme starting on Monday in the institute campus.

NIIST had hogged headlines by creating tableware from agro-residues as handy substitutes for single-use plastics. Described as an ethical and cost-effective alternative to animal-based and synthetic leathers, vegan leather is manufactured using a different process, explains Anjineyulu Kothakota, the NIIST scientist leading the project.

Various vegan leather products developed by the NIIST team.

Various vegan leather products developed by the NIIST team.

‘’We use a wet process for making it. The production methods are way more eco-friendly and cost-effective than that of synthetic leather where hazardous chemicals are used,’‘ he said. The plant-based ‘leather’ is softer, durable and displays good tensile strength, stability and temperature resistance, according to NIIST.

Mango and pineapple peels, cactus, banana pseudostem, rice straw, vetiver grass – you name it, NIIST has turned them into bags, belts, wallets, sandals and pouches. ‘‘We can use any agricultural waste,’‘ adds Dr. Kothakota.

Multiple benefits

Initiatives such as that of NIIST’s are aimed at popularising practical alternatives to the animal-based and synthetic leather industries plagued by ethical issues, high energy and water consumption and the hazards posed by the use of toxic chemicals. For India, vegan leather especially offers opportunities given the growth of the food processing sector and easy availability of agro-wastes and byproducts, according to NIIST.

Several of the NIIST vegan leather products were also on display at the recently-held VAIGA -23 value addition expo organised by the State Agriculture Department.

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