Apple leather is a vegan alternative to real leather. It uses leftover pomace and peels from the fruit juice industry. This biodegradable waste is then attached to a natural or synthetic fabric backing to create apple leather. It is a bio-based leather alternative from the apple industry’s food waste.
Genuine leather is an industry filled with animal cruelty and environmental damage. The raw materials are animal skin that is derived from unethical animal farms. The manufacturing process uses chemicals that are toxic to the workers and the environment.
The fashion industry has been a major adaptor of leather. Leather is used to make a wide variety of garments and clothing. But in current years, brands are saying no to animal cruelty and are sourcing sustainable materials.
How Is Apple Leather Manufactured?
Creating apple leather starts with recovering the raw material, apple waste. It is obtained from the leftovers of the fruit and juicing industry. Waste such as stems, peels, and pomace are treated, attached to a lining, fabric, and knitted to create apple leather.
These leftovers are then ground into a fine powder. At this step, the raw materials require additional materials that provide them stability. Hence, either natural or synthetic materials can be added.
Most apple leather manufacturing processes use plastic to provide stability. Examples include polyurethane, polyester, cotton, or viscose powder. Adding these gives apple leather the material strength and durability.
This powder is then mixed into a liquid material, and pumped into large containers. Here, they transform into a solid state. This is then pressed to look like fabric, is colored, and ushered inside a large oven to dry. In the final step, the inside lining is attached to the fabric.
The lining can be canvas, polyester, or any material of choice that provides a long-lasting durable finish. Any form of leftovers during the manufacturing process is reused in the next batch.
This type of apple leather is still partially biodegradable. As it contains small amounts of plastic, the organic part may degrade but the plastic will not. However, brands are investing in the research and design of 100% biodegradable apple leather.
For instance, instead of using polyurethane or any form of plastic, organic cotton or natural rubber can be used. This is done by a brand called Beyond Leather. Based out of Copenhagen, the brand is working on creating 100% biodegradable apple leather.
The apple waste powder is mixed with powdered natural rubber or organic cotton. Organic cotton is pesticide free and hence is not environmentally toxic. The textile backing used in the later stage of manufacture is made of cotton and wood fiber rather than canvas or polyester.
This way, the raw materials used are completely organic. The final stage of apple leather processing requires a protective coating. This coating is often plastic based. This enhances the texture and color of the fabric.
With Beyond Leather, the coating used was half petroleum-based polyurethane and half bioplastic. The brand aims to replace the current coating and make it 100% bio-based and degradable in the years to come.
Is Apple Leather Sustainable?
Compared to real and faux leather, apple leather is more sustainable. The sustainability of apple leather depends on its manufacturing process, and raw materials used. For a material to be sustainable, its lifecycle must have minimal waste and environmental impact.
Starting with raw materials, apple leather is a biomaterial that uses organic apple waste. Apple pomace is one of the largest produced food waste. Globally, it is estimated that about 4 million tonnes of apple waste are created per year.
Apple waste is also a circular material, as any leftovers can be reused. Apple peels and cores cannot be directed towards farming or animal feed. Hence, creating apple leather is a sustainable manner of utilizing apple waste.
The manufacturing process of apple leather only requires 40-50% plastic. It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food waste. The CO2 impact is also significantly reduced when compared to real or faux leather.
Currently, apple leather is non-biodegradable or partially biodegradable. This is due to the addition of polyurethane, synthetic fibers, and plastic coating. In the future, brands may switch to natural fabric to boost the stability of apple leather.
Is Apple Leather Durable?
Apple leather is partially water resistant and highly durable. Apple leather comes in a variety of textures, thicknesses, embossing, and prints. It is known to last about 5-10 years with regular maintenance.
The durability of apple leather depends on the raw materials and the protective coating. Currently, plastic is used as a protective coating. Apple leather is naturally UV resistant, which adds to its durability.
In fact, apple leather is so durable that even luxury brands are using it for bags, sneakers, and versatile fashion accessories.
How To Clean Apple Leather?
Similar to other plant or fruit-based leather, apple leather is easy to clean. Instructions for specific fashion items depend on the label. Apple leather is cleaned the same way as faux or vegan leather.
Being naturally UV resistant, apple leather does not undergo any damage due to sunlight. To remove any stains due to regular wear and tear, there are two methods.
For light stains, wipe the stained area on apple leather gently with a dry cloth. For stubborn stains, wipe with a damp cloth and let the leather air dry.
Slightly soapy water can also be used with a damp cloth to wipe the stain. It is advised to not use chemicals as they can degrade the apple leather. In case of any dust or dried mud, use a soft brush to clean.
For stains that need more cleaning, using a faux leather cleaner is recommended. These are mild and are specifically made for faux leather maintenance. Test the cleaner on a small, non-noticeable spot before applying it to the stain.
Being gentle with plant or fruit-based leather is key. It is also important to look at the label of the clothing for specific cleaning instructions if any.
How To Maintain Apple Leather?
Maintenance of apple leather consists of regular cleaning, drying, and proper storage. Maintaining apple leather can extend its longevity. This contributes to sustainability as the product’s lifespan increases.
To protect apple leather from stains, faux leather protection spray is used before wearing the garment. Apply it a few hours before using sneakers, boots, or apple leather bags.
If the apple leather becomes dry with regular usage, it is treated with baby oil. Using a dry microfiber cloth and some baby oil, polish the apple leather accessory. As an alternative, a specific polish for apple leather can also be used.
A sponge is not recommended for any cleaning activities. While apple leather is slightly water resistant, submerging the material in water can be damaging. Do not use any chemical or alcohol-based product on the apple leather material.
Finally, storing your apple leather accessory is an important part of maintenance. It can be stored in a protective dust bag. Apple leather-based boots or bags can be stuffed with clean paper or old fabric to retain their shape.
Pressing, folding, and stacking apple leather items on top of each other should be avoided. Apple leather is also naturally UV resistant. But, keeping it in a cool place away from sunlight is recommended.
Which Designers Use Apple Leather?
From jackets to sneakers, many brands and designers have taken a liking to apple leather. Some examples of such resource-conscious brands include,
This New York-based brand prides itself on being women-owned. The brand produces a range of fashion accessories such as wallets, card holders, and bags. They use mango and cactus leather alongside apple leather.
Veerah uses apple leather, recycled plastic, and algae-based materials in its fashion line. The brand produces vegan boots, sandals, and other shoe accessories.
Samara works with sourcing raw materials from Europe to create apple leather. Using partially biodegradable apple leather, the brand creates vegan handbags, and shoes.
Based out of France, the brand has a vegan shoe line. Some of these use apple leather. Designs such as boots, and sandals that use apple leather are available.
The current generation of apple leather is a mix of polyurethane and apple waste content. This is due to the durability that polyurethane confers. In the future, this durability may be provided by natural materials rather than synthetic ones.
Apple leather is beyond just another form of vegan leather. The properties of apple leather contribute to its popularity. For brands, apple leather is already a favored material.
As ethical consumers, it’s always best to make a conscious choice while purchasing fashion materials. Brands in the fashion industry have the responsibility to make this more accessible to consumers. Switching to sustainable options is a holistically better choice for now and the future.
See also: What Is Mushroom Leather?
Main Image: courtesy of Allegorie