Environmental science & technology

Sodium metasilicate based fiber opening for greener leather processing.

PMID 18441828


Growing environmental regulations propound the need for a transformation in the current practice of leather making. The conventional dehairing and fiber opening process results in high negative impact on the environment because of its uncleanliness. This process accounts for most of the biochemical oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand in tannery wastewater and generation of H2S gas. Hence, this study explores the use of a biological material and a nontoxic chemical for performing the above process more cleanly. In this study, the dehairing and fiber opening processes has been designed using enzyme and sodium metasilicate. The amount of sodium metasilicate required for fiber opening is standardized through the removal of proteoglycan, increase in weight, and bulk properties of leathers. It has been found that the extent of opening up of fiber bundles is comparable to that of conventionally processed leathers using a 2% sodium metasilicate solution. This has been substantiated through scanning electron microscopic analysis and softness measurements. The presence of silica in the crust leather enhances the bulk properties of the leather. This has been confirmed from the energy dispersive X-ray analysis. Performance of the leathers is shown to be on par with conventionally processed leathers through physical and hand evaluation. The process also exhibits significant reduction in chemical oxygen demand and total solid loads by 55 and 24%, respectively. Further, this newly developed process seems to be economically beneficial.

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Sodium metasilicate