Apple has announced plans to ditch animal leather in its accessories as part of the global tech giant’s efforts to meet its carbon-neutral sustainability goals by 2030.

“Leather is a popular material for accessories, but it has a significant carbon footprint, especially at Apple’s scale,” announced Lisa Jackson, Vice President for Environment at Apple. “To reduce our impact, we will no longer use leather in any new Apple product, including watchbands.” She added that the company’s aim was to “make products customers love and protect the planet at the same time”.

The US-based company will produce all new iPhone cases, Apple Watch Bands, and other accessories using a new textile called Fine Woven. According to Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer at Apple, the material has a “soft, suede-like feel,” and a “significantly lower carbon footprint than leather”.

The new material will be found on the Magnetic Link and Modern Buckle Apple Watch bands as well as iPhone MagSafe cases and wallets.

Why we need solutions to animal leather

Soon to be valued at nearly $128.61 billion, the global animal leather industry slaughters over one billion animals every year. Contrary to popular belief, animal leather is not simply a “by-product” of the meat industry – it’s a co-product. Animal leather is in itself a fully mechanized, independent industry that has a detrimental impact on the planet, animals, and the factory workers involved in its production.

To produce finished leather, the animal skins first need to be treated in a process called tanning – which is where the hides are doused in a chemical liquid to stop them from decomposing. Reports show that 90 percent of tanning uses chromium tanning – a “slush of chemicals and gasses, including carcinogenic chromium”. As this toxic liquid is met with strict regulations in the US and Europe, the tanning process often takes place in developing countries, where exploited workers – including children as young as ten in some countries – must work to tan the leather despite its well-documented, dangerous side effects.

The severe side effects of working in toxic tanneries include long-term cancer, reproductive problems, and skin reactions. In some ‘tannery towns’ – places where many residents work with toxic chemicals and the waste released into local waterways – around 90 percent of tannery workers die before they reach the age of 50.

This need for the extensive rearing of animals creates a huge strain on our environment, including the overuse of water and land resources, as well as harmful gas emissions. Animal farming contributes to 14.5 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, ranking as the second-largest source of emissions, surpassing the collective emissions from all transportation sectors.

Recently, the animal leather used by more than 100 fashion brands was linked to deforestation in the Amazon, according to a report compiled by Slow Factory. “The Amazon rainforest is fast approaching the tipping point of irreversible ecosystem collapse, according to scientists,” the report states, and calls for the world’s leading fashion brands to act immediately in order to protect the Amazon rainforest, its people, and our collective global climate future.

Sustainable, cruelty-free alternatives

In response to the environmental impact of animal leather, the alternative leather market has exploded over the past few years, resulting in a wave of innovation, like Mylo, Pinatex, and Mirum. The market – valued at $39.5 billion in 2022 – is expected to grow to $74.5 billion by 2030.

Original source: https://www.speciesunite.com