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Establishing a circular economy approach for the leather industry

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posted on 21.06.2018 by Tegan A. Pringle
This thesis reports on research undertaken to investigate the implementation of a Circular approach within the leather industry, through the definition of a framework and development of an economic decision-making support tool. The core objective of the research is to identify the underpinning opportunities and challenges involved in creating recycling solutions for leather waste. The research contributions can be considered in four key areas. The first part of the thesis consists of a review of the use of leather across industry sectors and the existing waste management and recycling systems for leather waste. On consideration of this review it clearly shows a lack of systematic thinking around the creation and optimisation of recovery systems for leather waste. This review concludes that there is significant room for improvement of the current waste management and recycling solutions for leather waste. A variety of value-added products can be recovered from these wastes but only if the leather can be successfully separated from the other materials (such as rubbers and polymers) within end-of-life products and manufacturing wastes. The second part of the research defines a framework for implementing a Circular approach within the leather industry. This framework supports mapping and characterisation of the leather waste stream and the design of recycling and processing strategies for leather waste. The third part of the research is concerned with the development of a decision-support tool for the economic viability of leather recycling systems. The support tool considers all cost factors and combines them to give a single factor upon which the economic effectiveness of different leather recycling scenarios can be evaluated. Finally, the validity of the framework for leather waste recycling is assessed through the completion of two case studies. These case studies demonstrate the flexibility of the framework in supporting both horizontal (across lifecycle) leather recycling and vertical (across industry sector) leather recycling. In summary, the research clearly highlights the need for systematic thinking and flexible strategies when creating leather recycling systems. Failure to incorporate flexibility into future recycling systems puts the recycling industries at risk of being unable to effectively manage future waste streams. Conversely, early consideration and incorporation of flexible processing strategies into recycling systems could enable the recovery of high-quality recycled materials that support a circular approach to manufacturing and resource use.





  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Tegan Pringle

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




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