Remember when pleather (vegan leather) first hit the market? It was hailed as a huge step in the right direction. After all, it was animal-free and therefore, cruelty-free.
As time has passed, however, the sweet deal that a fake leather jacket once was has turned a bit sour. No animals are harmed in the process of making it, but its impact on the environment — in other words, pleather’s sustainability — is hugely up for debate.
What is vegan leather?
Vegan leather is a leather-like product that contains plastic. It’s wear-resistant and soft (just like leather), and it’s used to make luggage, shoes, jackets, sofas… and pretty much anything else you can think of that’s made from leather.
Vegan leather is usually cheaper than real leather and is more ethical; there is a broad range of its types, from PVC to polyamide microfiber, too. Moreover, with the advent of better technology, there will be even more fake leathers to choose from in the years to come.
How does pleather affect the environment?
Most faux leathers come about with the help of some plastic. Usually, these plastics are either polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. They’re common — and pretty bad for the environment.
The problem is that environmental bad boys like petroleum and chlorine are involved in the creation of polyvinyl chloride. Both are unsustainable and both play a key role in the production of a fake leather jacket.
Then there’s the fact that fake leather doesn’t last that long: while animal leather is cruel, jackets made of it actually last longer. Before you know it, you’ll be dumping your faux leather jacket in the trashcan and buying another one, and that means more plastic and more waste. Not cool.
And check this out: polyvinyl chloride isn’t biodegradable. Instead, it breaks into smaller and smaller chunks until it makes its way into our environment as one of those nasty waste products we all are trying to avoid.
How does pleather affect our health?
As mentioned, polyvinyl chloride is involved in the creation of faux leather. And while polyvinyl chloride is harmful to the environment, it’s also harmful to us humans in other ways.
Polyvinyl chloride is a colorless gas that is non-natural. It’s burned in facilities where the workers are exposed to it via inhalation. Everyone else outside the factory, meanwhile, is exposed by inhaling contaminated air or — for those who smoke — via tobacco smoke (polyvinyl is used in the creation of tobacco smoke, too).
Why is this a problem?
Research has shown that polyvinyl is linked to cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, lung, and brain.
Anything else I should know?
Vegan leather is definitely animal cruelty-free, which is a huge tick in its box. It’s also easy to clean and maintain, doesn’t have that smell that real leather does (which is always hit and miss) — but it clearly has marks against it.
The good news is that, as mentioned, technology is ensuring that there are lots of sustainable options out there, with more being created all the time.
Top 3 pleather alternatives
- Plant and vegetable-based leather — A pineapple leather jacket? You bet!
- Silicone leather — Derived from sand-based silica, it’s a friend of the ocean, isn’t toxic and — more importantly — isn’t plastic.
- Bio leather — It’s not on the marketplace just yet, but we’d suggest that you watch this space. It’s technically animal leather, but it’s cruelty-free because it’s grown in a laboratory with cells taken from a skin biopsy.
Summary — and what else you can do for the environment
So, we’ve learned that pleather isn’t really all that. For vegans concerned for the environment, pleather might be animal cruelty-free, but it’s still harming our planet.
As well as investing in non-leather jackets and other items of clothing/homeware, it’s also a good idea to buy second hand: this helps to keep your carbon footprint down simply by encouraging less waste.
Plus, vintage stores rock.
And what are your thoughts on vegan leather? Would you give it a try? Let us know in the comments!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kat Doe is a Content Strategist and Editor at NatureHub. Absolutely crazy about tofu and flower-infused drinks. Roots for veganism and vegetarianism, animal rights, humanism, and sustainability. ⠀