An overview on the environmental impacts of synthetic leather made of hemp fiber with preliminary lifecycle assessment

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Sammanfattning: This report covers a preliminary life cycle assessment (LCA) on imitation leather made from hemp fiber (hemp leather) and a comparison to bovine leather, to examine whether hemp leather is an environmentally sustainable alternative. The bovine leather industry is responsible for heavy chemical use and emissions, detrimental effects to the environment as well as to human health. The United Nations (UN) and other organizations call for immediate action against the animal product industry sector to greatly reduce emissions and protect the environment. Hemp is a versatile plant that can be used for many things, including paper, composites, textiles, food and medicine, and is probably a suitable material for imitation leather. The hemp plant requires little inputs, grows fast and without pesticides, has positive effects on the environment and can be cultivated on every inhabited continent. The preliminary LCA was based on a patent describing the manufacturing process of hemp leather completed with data from literature and a few assumptions made. LCA-results for bovine leather were collected from literature and the two leather fabrics were then compared. The comparison showed that hemp leather is superior to bovine leather in all compared categories except for water consumption and hazardous waste. Bovine leather had 99% more energy use, 78% higher acidification potential (AP), 99,9% higher eutrophication potential (EP) and 83% higher global warming potential (GWP) than hemp leather. The large water consumption in the manufacturing phase of hemp leather is possible to be explained by over dimensioning of inputs. The report concludes that hemp leather would be the environmentally and ethically admirable choice between the two leathers and that more research on more modern methods of manufacturing it should be performed.

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