Advances in technological–industrial processes have led to the development of new materials that generate different impacts on the environment when presented as waste. The application of sustainable manufacturing practices in order to improve the environmental behaviour of materials, including in the waste stage, is now an important industry responsibility. This study developed a new method for the rapid evaluation of leather biodegradability that can easily be operated by the tannery industry during the production phase. The method uses the OxiTop® system within which a solid sample is suspended in a liquid medium with no nutritional limitations at a constant temperature and stirring conditions. Ten leather samples were tested based on the existing methodology for determining aerobic biological activity (EN 16087-1: 2011), ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials in an aqueous medium (ISO 14851: 2004), and OECD 301F guidelines for testing of chemicals. The developed method has been shown to reliably distinguish (over 7 days) between samples produced using different manufacturing processes/treatments. Starch proved to be a better standard reference material for checking inoculum activity and the proper functioning of the measurement system than cellulose. Skin without treatment was shown to be a suitable reference material for defining the maximum biodegradation of leather materials. Double exponential and Gompertz mathematical models closely described the biodegradation of the tested samples. This method offers a way for industry to test and produce leather materials with higher levels of biodegradability, thus reducing the adverse environmental impacts of the final products when presented as solid waste.
- Double exponential
- Rapid method