Leather manufacturer ISA Tan Tec will spend $8.7 million on its new, Vietnam-based tannery aimed at producing leather using fewer resources than industry standards. The German/Chinese company was founded by CEO Thomas Schneider, who said that the demand from its clients for ecologically friendly leather is increasing rapidly. The Ho Chi Minh City location, set to open in mid-2009, will have 280 employees churning out two million square meters of leather a year, supplying companies including Timberland, Rockport, New Balance, Simple and Hush Puppies.
The Vietnam facility will employ many of the same resource-saving and energy-cutting procedures in place at its tannery in Guangzhou, China. At that location, in a span of 18 months, the company reduced electricity used for retanning by 76 percent and reduced heavy oil use by 28 percent.
The company’s overall process for making its Low Impact To the Environment, or LITE, leather uses 30 percent less energy and 50 percent less water, and emits 35 percent less carbon dioxide, than industry standards derived from the British Leather Technology Center. The company’s LITE concept calls for continuous monitoring of the company’s energy and water use. The amount of water used is recorded daily and the company analyzes it for where they can make reductions.
The Vietnam tannery will utilize a solar panel system to heat water used in the retanning process and cold water that is used to cool hydraulic machinery will be reused after being funneled into the hot water tank. The solar panel system will include panels on top of the parking lot’s roof, so that the employees’ motorcycles do not get hot during the day. The company said that solar panels at its China facility generate about 30,000 liters of hot water a day. ISA Tan Tec also takes water that is condensed from the leather during the drying process and reuses it for cleaning. The facilities are surrounded by a wall of bamboo that also serves to treat waste water. Ground water is pumped out by windmills.
ISA Tan Tec also makes use of the excess heat generated during production. For example, the water heated while cooling hydraulic machinery for is channeled into a hot water tank. Additionally, the company said that it saves considerable amounts of energy by using state-of-the-art tanning drums and infinitely variable air compressors. The company said that green roofs ensure a good microclimate, as well as provides insulation against high temperature and humidity that are present most of the year in Vietnam.