Vegan Leather

A Sustainable Alternative to Leather

The practice of making leather from animal hides has endured for over 7000 years, creating durable materials for our clothes, shoes, furniture, and accessories. However, modern leather production is polluting to our environment and to human health, and causes harm and suffering to animals. Therefore, a new and innovative tradition will be established by BioscienZ, B4Plastics, and Millvision: Vegan Leather from fungal biomass. In this collaborative project, a sustainable alternative to leather will be made from agricultural waste using fungal fermentation technology. VeganLeather will be strengthened with bio-based formulations and sheet-press methodologies, with the aim for large-scale production.

The Problem

Today’s producers face a paradox: an ever-increasing need for more materials, but not materials as we know them. New materials need to be better, more environmentally friendly, and less wasteful – but still abundant. Without the available feedstock and technologies to create products that meet these consumer demands, we’re left in a precarious situation. This isn’t necessarily negative however – it can be a wake-up call, and creates opportunities for our industries to change.
In the case of leather, cultivating livestock is widely known to have a large environmental footprint. Excessive water and land usage, methane production from the livestock, and toxic chemicals used to tan the animal hides all contribute to pollution. There are also ethical concerns to consider, regarding the harm caused to the animals themselves, wasteful supply chains, and poor working conditions in many textile industries.
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    CO₂ impact of leather

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    Toxic pollution

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    Harm to animals

A deeper dive into the problem

To understand the environmental impact of leather production, BioScienz calculates the CO₂ produced through the entire lifecycle of a cow. Each square meter of leather would be the equivalent of an emission of 110 kg of CO₂. The environmental costs don’t just stop there: the processing of raw animal hides typically uses toxic chromium tanning agents, and repeated washing steps which flush large amounts of toxic wastewater into the surrounding environment, posing high risk to human and environmental health.

In addition to environmental issues, there is also the harm caused to the cattle livestock raised for leather production. This is understandably important to consumers who wish to use products which are cruelty-free. Their options are then to seek eco-friendly alternatives, but unfortunately, the currently available vegan leathers on the market are either produced using fossil-based plastics or are not yet suitable for mass-production. This can be due to limited available feedstocks, or using organic streams which compete for food or fuel production.

The Solution

The main objective of VeganLeather is to establish the large-scale production and conversion of fungal biomass into a sustainable, vegan, and valuable leather substitute. To achieve this, a cross-EU collaboration between BioscienZ, B4Plastics and Millvision brings together the complementary knowledge and unique technology platforms of each company. From each company comes a highly specialized process, which is intrinsically sustainable at every step:

At B4Plastics, we will design biobased cross-linking agents which will improve the durability of the final leather, using a solvent-free process with a very high atom-economy and virtually no waste.


BioscienZ is a biotech company from the south of the Netherlands. They will take organic waste streams from agriculture, and converts them into fungal biomass using rapid and techno-economically improved fermentation . Using waste makes this process highly sustainable.

Millvision, experts in natural fibres from North Brabant, will turn the fungal biomass into leather sheets. They use a pressing technique that will rely predominantly on water and overall low process temperatures, reducing the energy consumption of the overall production method.

A deeper dive into the solution

Technical Readiness Level

Level 1
Product demonstration

Eureka moment in the head

Test

Fundamental
research

Technological
research

Product
demonstration

Manufacturing

The Value Chain

Steps in the value chain

Transitioning from lineair to circular

Raw material production

Manufacture
and use

Disposal

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    Raw Material

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    Monomer production

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    Polymer production

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    Plastic conversion

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    Production of plastic products

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    Use

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    Collection/ sorting and recycling

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    End of life

Bio-based value chain The Project B4Plastics 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Raw material production

1 Raw material

Sugar-rich waste exstracted from sugar beets.

Vegan Leather is a member of CrossRoads2: Sustainable Energy, which is financed by Interreg V Flanders-Netherlands, the cross-border cooperation programme with financial support from the European Regional Development Fund. More info: www.grensregio.eu.

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