What is Eco-Leather?

Eco-leather is a term used to describe a variety of leathers made from sustainable materials and without producing any toxic substances in the production process. While there are many different types of eco-leather, they all have one common goal: to reduce the environmental impact of the leather industry. In this guide, we will answer some of the most common questions about eco-leather. We will discuss what makes eco-leather sustainable, and we will discuss the various variations of this product.

History of Eco-Leather

Have you ever wondered what eco-leather is? If so, you’re not alone! Eco-leather is a type of leather that is made with sustainable methods and materials. It is also sometimes called “vegan leather” because it does not use any animal products. It is made from recycled or natural materials instead of animal skin. Eco-leather can be just as durable and high-quality as traditional leather, but it has a smaller environmental impact.

History of Eco-Leather

Some people consider old, yet recycled animal leather to be eco-friendly. However, the leather tanning process often contains harmful chemicals. These chemicals can pollute the environment and potentially cause health problems for workers and nearby residents. Therefore, many people consider only plant-based or synthetic materials to be truly eco-friendly.

Eco-leather is a material that has been around for centuries, but it was only recently that it began to be used in mass production. In the past, eco-leather was mainly used as a material for handbangs.

Eco-leather is also free of harmful chemicals and pollutants, making it a safer choice for both the environment and your health. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of eco-leather in the fashion industry. Many high-end designers are now using eco-leather to create luxury handbags, shoes, and clothing. [2]

Is Eco-Leather and Synthetic Leather the Same Thing?

Eco-leather and synthetic leather are not the same thing, but they are often confused. Synthetic leather is made from plastic materials, such as polyurethane or PVC. It is a cheaper alternative to traditional leather, but it is not as durable. Eco-leather, on the other hand, is made from sustainable materials like recycled plastics or plant-based fibers. [2]

While synthetic leather may be cheaper, it is not as environmentally friendly as eco-leather. Synthetic leather often contains harmful chemicals that can pollute the environment. It can also take centuries to break down in landfills. Eco-leather, on the other hand, is biodegradable and does not contain any harmful chemicals. [3]

Tanning also matters when it comes to environmental friendliness. Synthetic leather is often treated with harmful chemicals during the tanning process. These chemicals can pollute the environment and potentially cause health problems for workers and nearby residents. Eco-leather, on the other hand, is usually vegetable-tanned or metal-free. This means that no harmful chemicals are used in the tanning process. [1]

Eco-leather also has a more natural look and feel than synthetic leather. Many people prefer eco-leather because it looks and feels more like traditional leather. It is also a more sustainable choice for the environment.

What is Eco-Leather Made of?

Eco-leather can be made from a variety of sustainable materials, including bamboo, cork, pineapple leaves, and even recycled plastic! This type of leather is often more environmentally friendly than traditional leather, as it requires fewer chemicals and less energy to produce. Let’s take a look at different types of eco-leather!

Piñatex leather

Piñatex is a type of eco-leather made from the fiber of the pineapple leaves. It is a sustainable alternative to traditional leather, as it does not require any animal products or chemicals. One of the advantages of Piñatex is limited use of external resources in its production, such as water, pesticides and heavy mettalic salts used in chrome tanning processes.

This material was invented by Dr. Carmen Hijosa in the 1990s in the Philippines. She was inspired by the traditional Filipino technique of weaving pineapple leaves into baskets and other objects. After years of research and development, she created a process for turning pineapple leaf fibers into a nonwoven fabric that could be used to make eco-leather!

Piñatex is strong and durable, yet soft and flexible, making it an ideal material for a variety of applications. It is often used to create handbags, shoes, and clothing. [4]

While Piñatex is a great alternative to traditional leather, it does have some drawbacks. One downside is that it is non-biodegradable and uses petroleum-based resins in its production, which are harmful to the environment. [5] It’s also not as breathable as traditional leather, so it may not be the best choice for summertime use. Additionally, Piñatex can fade and dry out over time as opposed to the traditional leather, which can last for decades. [6]

Recycled plastic

It may be surprising to hear, but recycled plastic bottles can be turned into eco-leather! This type of leather is made by recycling post-consumer plastic waste, such as water bottles or food packaging. The recycled plastic is then processed into a nonwoven fabric that can be used to create eco-leather.

This type of leather has a few advantages over traditional leather. First, it is more environmentally friendly, as it reduces the amount of plastic waste in landfills. Second, it is more durable and longer lasting than traditional leather. And third, it is softer and more flexible than traditional leather, making it more comfortable to wear.

However, there are some drawbacks to recycled plastic eco-leather. One downside is that it is not as breathable as other types of eco-leather, so it may not be the best choice for summertime use. [7]


Cork leather is another sustainable alternative to traditional leather. Cork is derived from the bark of cork oak trees, which are native to the Mediterranean region. Cork is a very durable material that is also water-resistant. Cork leather is also biodegradable and compostable.

Cork leather

This material has been used for centuries, but it was only recently that it began to be used in mass production. Cork leather is often used to create handbags, shoes, and clothing.

While cork leather is a great alternative to traditional leather, it does have some drawbacks. One downside is that it is not as durable as traditional leather. Additionally, cork leather can be difficult to clean and care for. [8]


Bamboo is another sustainable option for eco-leather production. Bamboo is an extremely fast-growing plant that does not require any pesticides or fertilizers to grow. Bamboo products are also biodegradable, meaning they will break down naturally over time.

As you can see, all of these materials are sourced from renewable resources, which makes eco-leather a more sustainable option than traditional leather. [9]

Tanning Requirements for Eco-Leather

However, even if the leather was made from cruelty-free materials, it doesn’t mean that the tanning process was eco-friendly. Traditional leather tanning uses a variety of harmful chemicals, including chromium and arsenic. These chemicals can pollute the air and water, and they are also toxic to humans.

Tanning Requirements for Eco-Leather

To be considered eco-leather, the tanning process must be free of these harmful chemicals. Instead, eco-leather is typically tanned using barks or other natural substances. This ensures that the leather is safe for both humans and the environment. [1]

Eco-leather is usually made using plant-based oils and waxes, which give it a natural water-resistant finish. This makes eco-leather an excellent choice for upholstery, shoes, and other items that come into contact with water on a regular basis.

Vegetable tanning

There are a few different ways to tan eco-leather, but the most common method is vegetable tanning. Vegetable-tanned eco-leather is made from natural tannins derived from plant matter. This type of leather is often used in high-end products because it looks better with age and develops a rich patina over time. It’s also more durable than other types of leather. [1]

However, vegetable-tanned eco-leather can be difficult to work with and requires special care. For example, it can’t get wet or it will shrink and deform. You also need to avoid exposure to sunlight or heat, as this will cause the leather to dry out and crack. [10]

While vegetable tanning is relatively eco-friendly, it does require the use of natural resources. As such, some companies are exploring alternative methods of tanning eco-leather. One such method is chrome-free tanning.

Chrome-free tanning

Chrome-free tanning is a process that uses metals other than chromium to tan the leather. This results in a leather that is free of harmful chemicals and safe for both humans and the environment. Chrome-free tanned eco-leather is often used in high-end products because it has a softer feel and a more natural look than other types of leather. [11]

It should be noted that not all chrome-free tanned eco-leather is created equal. Some brands use safer methods of chrome-free tanning than others.

One of the most common eco-friendly chrome-free tanning methods is glutaraldehyde tanning. This method uses a naturally occurring substance called glutaraldehyde, which is derived from oxidation of cyclopentene. Glutaraldehyde tanning is often used for medical applications.

This method of tanning is also very effective at preserving the leather, as it prevents bacteria and mold from growing on the surface of the material. Additionally, glutaraldehyde-tanned leather is very strong and durable. [12]

However, exposure to a high concentration of glutaraldehyde is toxic for human health and can lead to skin irritation, nausea and headache. This is dangerous for workers in the leather industry. [13]

Comparison of Leather and Eco-Leather

Comparison of Leather and Eco-Leather

Still, how do eco-leather and natural leather compare with each other? Let’s discuss!


The most obvious difference between regular leather and eco-leather is the eco-friendliness. As the name suggests, eco-leather is much friendlier to the environment than regular leather.

Eco-leather is made from sustainable materials, such as leaves, tree bark, and even recycled plastic bottles. Additionally, the tanning process used for eco-leather is free of harmful chemicals. This ensures that the final product is safe for humans, animals and the environment.

In contrast, traditional leather is made from animal skin, which isn’t a renewable resource. Furthermore, the tanning process used for traditional leather often uses harmful chemicals, which can pollute the air and water.

Eco-friendly leather is also cruelty-free, as it doesn’t require the slaughter of animals. Traditional leather, on the other hand, is made from the skin of cows, pigs, and other animals that are killed for their meat.

Eco-leather also has some other advantages over regular leather. For example, eco-leather is usually more durable and easier to care for than regular leather. Additionally, eco-leather often looks just as good as regular leather (if not better)!

In terms of sustainability, eco-leather is the clear winner. It is also free of harmful chemicals and is cruelty free. However, some people argue that traditional leather is more sustainable than eco-leather because it can last for decades with proper care. While this may be true, the fact remains that eco-leather is a more sustainable option overall. [1]


Both natural and eco-leather can look just as good, if not better than the other. It really just depends on how it’s made and what kind of products you’re looking at. For example, eco-leather upholstery can look just as nice, if not nicer than natural leather upholstery. The same goes for shoes and other accessories.

It should be noted that eco-leather does not develop the same patina as natural leather. Patina is the soft, shiny layer that forms on natural leather over time. This happens because the oils from your skin help to condition the leather and protect it from dirt and debris.

Eco-leather can’t develop patina because it’s not made from animal skin. However, some types of eco-leather are treated with beeswax or other natural substances that give it a similar appearance.

Additionally, eco-leather is available in a wide variety of colors and finishes. This means that you can find eco-leather that looks just like regular leather, or you can find something that’s completely unique.

Finally, eco-leather has a softer and lighter feel than regular leather, which some people prefer. [2]


Eco-leather is just as durable as regular leather, if not more so. This is because eco-leather is often made from stronger materials, such as vegetable-tanned leather. Additionally, eco-leather is usually treated with natural substances that make it resistant to water and sunlight damage.

As a result, eco-leather is an excellent choice for upholstery, shoes, and other items that see heavy use. It’s also a good choice for people who are looking for a more sustainable option than traditional leather.

However, it’s important to note that eco-leather still needs to be cared for properly. For example, you should avoid exposure to excessive heat or sunlight, as this can cause the material to dry out and crack. [2]


When it comes to maintenance, eco-leather is much easier to care for than natural leather. You can simply wipe it down with a damp cloth if it gets dirty. Natural leather, on the other hand, needs to be conditioned and cleaned on a regular basis to prevent it from drying out and cracking.


Eco-leather is also more resistant to staining than natural leather. This is because the oils and waxes used in the tanning process create a barrier that helps repel water and dirt. Natural leather does not have this barrier, so it is more susceptible to staining. [2]


Eco-leather is usually way more affordable than natural leather. The main reason is that it’s usually cheaper to produce eco-leather since it doesn’t require as many resources. Natural leather is often seen as a luxurious material, which means that it comes with a higher price tag. It takes a lot of time, money and resourses to raise cattle, process their skin and turn it into leather.

Eco-leather, on the other hand, is often made from recycled materials or synthetic fibers. This makes it much cheaper to produce and therefore more affordable for consumers. [2]


Is eco leather fake leather?

Eco leather is a type of leather that is made from sustainable resources. It may be created from recycled natural leather or from natural materials. In the latter case, it is considered a natural leather.

Is Eco leather good quality?

Eco leather is a great alternative to traditional leather. It is often mistaken for being of lower quality but that simply isn’t the case. In fact, eco leather can be just as durable and even more water resistant than regular leather. So, if you’re looking for a sustainable and environmentally friendly option, eco leather is a great choice!

What is eco leather made out of?

Eco leather is a material that is made out of recycled or sustainable materials. It can be made from things like recycled plastic, tree bark, and even bamboo. Eco-leather is a more sustainable alternative to traditional leather because it doesn’t use any animal products. Plus, it often uses less water and energy to produce.

Is eco leather durable?

Eco leather is just as durable as regular leather. In fact, it may even be more durable since it’s often made with high-quality materials that are designed to last. One of the best things about eco leather is that it’s very easy to care for. You can simply wipe it down with a damp cloth to keep it clean. If you do need to clean your eco leather furniture, you can use a mild soap and water solution. Just be sure to avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaners on your eco leather furniture as this could damage it.

Useful Video: What is Eco-Leather?

Final words

So what is eco-leather? Simply put, it’s leather that has been created using minimal resources and few harmful chemicals. The tanning process for eco-leather doesn’t use any toxic chromium salts, making it better for both the environment and the workers involved in the production process. And because it uses fewer harsh chemicals and natural or recucled materials, eco-leather is also cruelty free – meaning no animals were harmed in order to create your new favorite handbag or pair of shoes. Eco leather products are created in a way to perfectly mimick the look and feel of traditional leather, but with a much smaller carbon footprint. So next time you’re in the market for some new leather goods, be sure to consider eco-leather as a more sustainable option!


  1. https://osfelle.com/ecological-leather-the-next-eco-friendly-breakthrough/
  2. https://hozencollection.com/blogs/hozen-blog/what-is-eco-leather-why-it-belongs-in-your-closet
  3. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/fashion/fashion-news/a30640996/vegan-leather-sustainability/
  4. https://www.dezeen.com/2016/06/09/pinatex-ananas-anam-vegan-leather-alternative-ethical-recycled-pineapple-leaves-sustainable-materials-design-camper/
  5. https://www.ananas-anam.com/faqs/
  6. https://www.panaprium.com/blogs/i/pinatex-pineapple-leather
  7. https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/a-vegan-leather-alternative-made-from-single-use-plastic/2021091357670
  8. https://mahileather.com/blogs/news/all-you-need-to-know-about-cork-leather
  9. https://vonholzhausen.com/pages/banbu-leather
  10. https://www.carlfriedrik.com/blogs/magazine/vegetable-tanned-leather
  11. https://www.neratanning.com/chrome-free-leather/
  12. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/
  13. 242584299_Studies_on_the_Tanning_with_Glutaraldehyde_as_an_Alternative_to_Traditional_Chrome_Tanning_System_for_the_Production_of_Chrome_Free_Leather

  14. https://www.blcleathertech.com/news/glutaraldehyde-is-now-listed-on-the-svhc-list