LIFE BIOPOL - Production of Leather making BioPolymers from biomasses and industrial by products,through Life Cycle Designed processes

LIFE15 ENV/IT/000654

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Contact details:

Contact person: Lorenzo TADDEI
Tel: 39057141671
Fax: 390571416900
Email: l.taddei@codyeco.it

Project description:


The leather industry consumes large volumes of water and chemicals. The chemicals used are mostly petrochemical-based, due to the easy availability of such materials and to their chemical stability. In accordance with the European Dangerous Substances Directive almost 31% of the volume of the chemicals used by the European leather industry are hazardous substances. Of those, 62% are used in Italy. The BREF (Best Available Techniques Reference) document and IPPC (integrated pollution prevention and control) Directive both highly recommend the reduction of water consumption in the leather making process, and the identification and use of efficient and sustainable non-hazardous substances and more environmentally-friendly products.


The LIFE BIOPOL project aimed to demonstrate the technical performance and economic viability of an innovative process for producing new biopolymers (green chemicals) to be used in the tanning industry. These will be produced by recycling waste biomass from the related tanning process and agro-food industries. By doing so, the project aims to help implement the EU Industrial Emissions Directive, the BREF document, and the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation, which all recommend that industry should decrease water consumption and the use of hazardous chemicals and pollutants such as heavy metals, formaldehyde, chromium, chlorinated paraffin, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and inorganic salts.


The LIFE BIOPOL project demonstrated the technical performance and economic viability of an innovative process for producing new biopolymers (green chemicals) for use in the leather tanning industry.

The project team designed, constructed and validated an innovative industrial pilot plant to treat and process animal biomass waste generated by the leather treatment process, and vegetable biomass waste from agro-food industries. The pilot plant produced new biopolymers from these wastes, and demonstrated their use in different tanning applications.

The main environmental benefits arise from the replacement of raw materials, commercial chemicals and toxic products with the new biopolymers made from recycled and reused by-products from tanneries and agricultural industries. A quantitative assessment of the environmental impact of the process, applying the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), confirmed the cost-effectiveness and environmental effectiveness of the proposed new solution.

The results of the evaluation of the environmental benefits at the industrial scale showed that the new biopolymers reduce water consumption (20%-25%) during the tanning process compared to conventional processes, and reduce the contamination of wastewater, by 20-30% for COD, by 50-60% for inorganic salts (sulphates and chlorides), by around 98% for sulphates, and by 100% for chromium salts (Cr III). Indeed, the project team demonstrated that new BIOPOL products are completely free from hazardous substances such as formaldehyde, chromium salts and heavy metals. A Life Cycle Assessment showed that the PEF (kg CO2 eq./kg product) for biopolymers was up to 77% less than for products made using synthetic re-tanning agents. The carbon footprint for making leather articles was 51% less in comparison with leather processed with conventional agents. The productive capacity of the plant, the quality of products, and environmental impact reductions all contributed to the validated sustainability of the projects new leather tanning process. The evaluation also showed that the decreased pollution load and the higher biodegradability of the BIOPOL products resulted in savings of up to 22% in the costs for wastewater treatment. Overall, average cost savings were calculated to be up to 5% using the new biopolymers to produce leather articles. According to the estimates of the project team the process has great market uptake potential, especially considering the increasing demand for more sustainably-produced leather goods.

The demonstration of the technical and economic viability of biopolymers as substitutes for conventional re-tanning and fat-liquoring agents could enable the upgrading of the BREF document for tanneries. For this reason, the project is relevant to the Industrial Emissions Directive.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Industry-Production - Chemicals
Environmental management - Circular economy and Value chains
Industry-Production - Leather and Footwear


chemical industry‚  leather industry‚  sustainable development‚  waste water reduction‚  water saving

Target EU Legislation

  • Industry and Product Policy
  • Directive 2010/75 - Industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (24.11.201 ...
  • Chemicals & Hazardous substances
  • "Regulation 1272/2008 - Classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (amend ...
  • Waste
  • COM(2015)614 - "Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" (02.12.2015)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator CODYECO SPA
Type of organisation SME Small and medium sized enterprise
Description CODYECO is a private company that supplies the tanning industry with a wide range of chemicals and dyes. The company is also specialised in the production and marketing of chemical products for animal skin finishing.
Partners Università Cà Foscari - Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems, Italy ILSA SpA, Italy DERIVADOS DEL COLAGENO S.A., Spain INDUSTRIAS PELETERAS S.A., Spain


Project reference LIFE15 ENV/IT/000654
Duration 01-JUL-2016 to 30-SEP -2019
Total budget 3,879,018.00 €
EU contribution 2,147,863.00 €
Project location Toscana(Italia)


Read more:

Leaflet "Producción de piel utilizando biopolímeros hechos ...
Poster Project's poster (25.5 MB)
Project web site Project's website
Publication: Layman report Layman report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version