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Polyurethane Leather: Is synthetic better?

Polyurethane leather and innovative companies such as Ultrafabrics are taking industry by storm, particularly in the automotive industry where polyurethane leather is the interior finishing material of choice for manufacturers such as Range Rover.

As a material, this synthetic version of the real thing offers numerous advantages. In terms of performance, polyurethane leather is waterproof, can be dry-cleaned, is soft and supple and much lighter than real leather. And although it tears more easily than genuine leather, this synthetic form does not crack or fade under sunlight, making it particularly ideal for automobiles, but also for clothing where it is used to create spandex and to add buoyancy to competitive swimsuits.

Other benefits of polyurethane leather include its environmental credentials. As a biobased material, genuine leather’s main environmental benefit is its biodegradability. However, this has to be considered against the background of the material’s production process. Traditionally, leather production and the tanning process use several toxic chemicals, which produce pollution in our interior and exterior environments. Tanneries themselves also release polluting chemicals including ammonia and chromium in the form of liquid and solid waste. This results in considerable water pollution, particularly in developing countries. By contrast, innovative manufacturing techniques make polyurethane leather cleaner to make, with less natural resource use and free of animal cruelty.

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