Specialty chemicals company Lanxess has won the first prize in the nationwide Responsible Care competition of the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI) for the project ‘Resource-efficient manufacturing of leather chemicals’ (ReeL). Responsible Care is the chemical industry’s global initiative to continuously improve its performance in environmental protection, health and safety. This year’s competition motto was ‘Sustainability in the supply chain’.

“Sustainability is also crucial for the leather industry and this award confirms to us that we are on the right track. In particular, the recycling of residual materials and the development of material cycles are essential topics,” said Luis López-Remón, head of the LANXESS Leather business unit. “Our ReeL project is not only good for the environment but also brings economic benefits for the tanners.”

In this research project, LANXESS has developed a completely new technology for tanneries. The main raw materials are biomass, collagen-containing shavings and waste cuts, which have so far generally been disposed of. Tanners can now produce X-Biomer retanning agents from these byproducts themselves and use them for the production of leather. A medium-sized tannery produces about one to two tonnes of shavings per day. The waste materials used in the plant can be fully recycled – no residues remain and no emissions are generated.

The pilot plant for the project was developed in cooperation with the Leverkusen research institute INVITE. The process has since been tried and tested at the third cooperation partner HELLER-LEDER GmbH & Co. KG and proved its feasibility. Eight times larger production plants are currently being planned in cooperation with leading large-scale tanneries in Europe, Lanxess said.

In April 2019, LANXESS won the Responsible Care state competition in North Rhine-Westphalia with “ReeL”. The project has already won several awards, including the Climate and Environment Innovation Award in February 2018, which is presented by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Nuclear Safety.