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Environmental sustainability assessment of a new degreasing formulation for the tanning cycle within leather manufacturing


The degreasing or defatting phase represents one of the most environmentally impacting step comprised in the whole leather manufacturing cycle. Indeed, the chemical compounds conventionally employed during this activity are significantly impacting, mainly as a consequence of their scarce and slow biodegradability. The present work represents a limited part of the European Life+ plus project titled “Environmentally-friendly natural products instead of chemical products in the degreasing phase of the tanning cycle”, which aims at proposing innovative degreasing formulations based on chemical compounds of natural origin. Particularly, newly synthesised lactose derivatives were thought to partially replace ethoxylated alcohols typically employed in commercial products. Aim of the present work is to present detailed and quantitative environmental assessments of the laboratory scale preparation of the most promising formulation tested, which resulted the one denoted as EDF 20. This innovative formulation is based on a piperazinyl hydrochloride derivative of lactose, for the obtainment of which a four synthetic steps protocol has been optimized, which was then mixed, in the last preparatory step, with further components to obtain an aqueous degreasing formulation with a reduced ethoxylated alcohol content. A preliminary environmental assessment, limited to the mere chemical point of view has been performed by employing the software EATOS (Environmental Assessment Tool for Organic Syntheses), in order to evaluate all of the chemicals used in the synthesis of the lactose derivative and in its work-up procedures. In order to assess the whole environmental and human health impact associated with the production of the defatting agent, thus performing a cradle to the grave analysis, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology was applied, with the aim to furnish quantitative and trustworthy data also related to further fundamental impact categories, like those comprising the energy consumptions. This work represents a first example of an environmental assessment related to one efficient alternative to the conventional degreasing procedure within the leather manufacturing cycle. Hopefully it will smooth the way towards the quantitative assessments of the further alternative defatting procedures/products, proposed practically on a daily base with the aim to significantly reduce the environmental loads of this tremendously impacting industrial activity.

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Publication details

The article was received on 24 Jun 2017, accepted on 07 Aug 2017 and first published on 07 Aug 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7GC01900A
Citation: Green Chem., 2017, Accepted Manuscript
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    Environmental sustainability assessment of a new degreasing formulation for the tanning cycle within leather manufacturing

    R. Rosa, M. Pini, P. Neri, M. Corsi, R. Bianchini, M. Bonanni and A. M. Ferrari, Green Chem., 2017, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C7GC01900A

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