Bioprocessing To Rid Leather Of Environmental Hazards

Chennai, Feb 15: | Updated: Feb 16 2004, 05:30am hrs
India is emerging as the world leader in leather processing technology through a paradigm shift from chemicals to bioprocessing. This would entirely remove the tag of environmental hazards attached to leather industry and products and empower it to face the challenges thrown up by the global ant-leather lobbies.

This shift in process technology will be made a commercial reality in the near future with the continuous scientific research and technological innovations of the Central Leather Research Institute, (CLRI), the worlds largest leather research centre.

Under the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) programme of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Researach (CSIR), CLRI has launched a project on Biotechnology for Leather. It is networking with 12 institutions and universities in the country for this.

According to Dr T Ramasami, director of CLRI, the basic aim of the project is to gain global technology leadership in leather through a paradigm shift from chemical to bioprocessing of leather. The R&D Consortium has gained useful leads towards salt-free ambient preservation of skins and hides, lime and sulfide free processing using enzymes and biotechnological management of sulfate in tannery effluents.

Dr Ramasami said, CSIR has developed new initiatives to netwrok its constituent laboratories like CLRI for the implementation of R&D and action/mission mode programmes. Three programmes on leather have been identified under this initiative of CSIR: Technologies for Standardisation of Bioresources for and from Leather, Environment Friendly Leather Processing and Leather Policy and Management Centre.

The European Commission has chosen CLRI to be the launch pad for a multi- institutional International R&D Consortium. Besides India the partnership involves Austria, Belgium, the UK, Germany, and Bangladesh.

Interesting leads have been obtained for salt-free curing, lime-free beam house operations and fibre stabilisation to achieve chromium free shavings all through application of silicates, Dr Ramasami said.

Similarly a collaborative project is being carried out between Common Wealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia and CLRI for reduction in salinity in tannery effluents. It is being funded by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Field trials with short-term preservation technologies, pickle recycling in vegetable tanning and direct chorme liquor recycling have commenced based on the success obtained in the collaborative efforts between the two institutes, the director said.

CLRI is emerging as the apex and main advocacy body of Indian leather industry. The Planning Commission has been asking the institute to provide technical and structural support in all its programme implementation for the leather sector.

CLRI has also undertaken the task of conducting a survey of hides and skins for the Union commerce ministry. Dr Ramasami said the focus of the survey is on availability of raw material, marketing channel and networking.

CLRI is also preparing a white paper for the Union commerce ministry before May 2004 for the notification of revised norms for finished leather and development of a national policy consistent with the global leather trade in the liberalised world economy.