Ethiopian Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI) and Indian Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) unveiled a new technology that enable local tanneries eliminate toxic waste.
Tanneries use chrome chemical and a large amount of water to tan skin and hides. The tanneries discharge chrome with water in large amount that pollutes the environment. Tanneries have been trying to treat the chrome that is discharged with the water. The chrome is toxic to human beings, animals and plants. It can even cause cancer if consumed in large amount.
Executives of LIDI and CLRI yesterday launched a new waterless chrome tanning technology that significantly reduce the use of water at tanneries and enable the tanneries to stop discharging chrome to the environment. The technology aimed at tanning the skin and hides without water with chrome. Research conducted by LIDI in collaboration with CLRI indicates that most of Ethiopian tanneries discharge water with high concentration of chrome. With the new technology the chrome will penetrate the skin and will not be washed out to the environment.
At a half day workshop held yesterday at the Nexus Hotel in Addis Ababa LIDI and CLRI deliberated with stakeholders. Wondu Legesse, director general of LIDI, said that the research on waterless chrome tanning technology has been undertaken by CLRI in India for the last ten years. Wondu said the new technology enables tanneries eliminate chrome waste which is toxic to the environment. “We have undertaken the research in Ethiopia for a year and we have seen very fruitful results.
Officials of the institutes said as a pilot project the technology has been implemented in three tanneries in Ethiopia-ELICO-Awash, Addis Ababa Tannery and Modjo Tannery- and demonstrated “outstanding results.”
Tadesse Haile, State minister with the Ministry of Industry, was delighted with the findings of the research. “I was briefed about the findings of the research sometime ago and I was impressed by the success of the research,” Tadesse said.
Tadesse said that the waterless chrome technology is environmentally sound and friendly. “The new technology has social and economic benefits. This is the right time to act. We are more than willing to collaborate with CLRI,” he said.
Director of CLRI, Dr. B Chandrasekaran, assured Tadesse that his institute will continue working with LIDI. “We want Ethiopian tannery industry to be a role model that other countries will look at.”
The research jointly undertaken by LIDI and CLRI indicate that Ethiopian tanneries discharge large amount of water with high concentration of chrome which is toxic to the environment. It also poses health hazard to animals and human being.
Zerfie Mersha, environmental technology director with LIDI, told The Reporter that the acceptable amount of chrome in water waste is 2 mg per liter but most Ethiopian tanneries discharge high concentration of chrome as high as more than 90 mg of chrome per liter. Zerfei said the chrome is toxic to plants, aquatic plants and fish. Zerfie said the new technology avoids the use of water, salt and sulfuric acid and formic acid. “We are introducing the technology to local tanneries and we highly encourage them to apply it but we cannot force them to use it,” she told The Reporter.
LIDI conducted the research for one year. Waste water samples from 18 tanneries were collected and analyzed. The overall assessment of the research indicates that there is poor chrome management practices and discharge of water with high chrome concentrate to the environment. Currently, there are 30 tanneries operating in Ethiopia, most of them are located around or near the capital Addis Ababa.
Yegzaw Assefa, president of Ethiopian Leather Industry Association, seems delighted with the new technology. Yegzaw said the new technology is environmentally friendly and it does not require additional investment to implement it. “Our customers are demanding. They need high quality of product and they want our production process eco friendly. Countries like India are trying to go green. We need to have a better technology otherwise we cannot up with the rest of the world,” Yegzaw said.
Ethiopian leather industry is hard hit by the soaring price of leather in the global market.