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Tanning Goes Green

Three cutting-edge tanneries weigh in on their key environmental efforts.

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The tannery at PrimeAsia.

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PrimeAsia Leather Corp.


Locations: Dongguan, China; Saigon, Vietnam; Changhua, Taiwan
Capacity: 5.5 million sq. ft./month (China), 5 million sq. ft./month (Vietnam), 1 million sq. ft./month (Taiwan)
Clients: Adidas, Clarks, Coach, K-Swiss, Lacoste, New Balance, Nike, The North Face, Puma, Reebok, Rockport, Vans and the Wolverine brands


Now:
“Environmentally sound leathers start with environmentally sound facilities and practices,” said Jon Clark, CEO of PrimeAsia. “We spend our money on investments in efficiencies.” With that in mind, the company spent $500,000 to install a 16,000-sq.-ft., 768-panel solar farm on its Vietnam tannery that went operational in September. The installation should be sufficient to heat 100,000 liters of water a day, which avoids heating the water in boilers — what Clark said is one of the tannery’s biggest energy users. And, he added, the system should pay for itself in 17 months.

 

Future: David Wright, PrimeAsia’s chief environmental officer, said the company is making energy its focus for now and beyond. “We are identifying the priorities in renewable energy,” he said, citing geothermal and gasification systems, as well as wind energy, as possibilities, though the differing climates of the company’s locations means each one will need its own kind. Water, too, is a focus, with the firm examining every step in the tanning process as a whole. “We will be challenging the manufacturers of the equipment we use in the process of making leather. It’s an old industry, and the technologies are antiquated,” Wright said.

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