LANCASTER, PA.— According to Sustainable Composites LLC, 3.5 billion pounds of leather waste is burned or sent to landfills each year. “A pound of scrap is thrown away for every person in the world,” says Frank Fox, partner Sustainable Composites. Fox and his business partner Tom Tymon found that unacceptable and officially launched their company last year—after figuring out a way to turn leather scraps into a very affordable yet luxurious material called enspire leather. The “e” denotes the environmentally positive aspect of the product while recognizing the endless inspiration the product can deliver to designers, manufacturers, and consumers.
Fox and his partner, both scientists, had retired in 2013 after spending an almost combined total of 60 years in the materials industry. “We wanted to find some interesting things to do. We were pursuing our interest in leather recycling—an alternative to hide leather. We wanted to create a product like leather. What we invented feels and performs like leather. enspire can be used in making anything usually made from traditional leather.” This is done without killing additional animals while reducing the volume of leather sent to landfill.
Fox said they had to first learn to get the fibers out of the scraps. “We created some chemistry that would take that leather apart and put it back together like paper.”
enspire Available in Rolls
Traditional leather has many imperfections which creates a lot more waste and makes leather more expensive. enspire leather is made in rolls which cuts down on waste and costs half as much. Because it is produced in uniform continuous rolls, and often when finished in rectangular uniform ‘hides,’ it dramatically increases the yields article manufacturers achieve compared to traditional leather,” Fox says. “It can be customized with the choice of color, texture, and thickness. You can order the sheet size you want.”
enspire was launched in 2019. “We introduced the product a month before COVID hit,” Fox says. He says business is now picking up and enspire is getting a very good reaction. “We are supplying material to Timberland that will be used in their shoes,” he says. “We have been chosen as their leather supplier.”
When asked if their venture was more than just about business, Fox said, “I believe that we are called to give back and preserve. Waste of materials is one thing we need to address. Tom and I felt sustainability is important and a good business opportunity.”
Sustainable Composites actually picks up scrap leather for free. Timberland and Wilsons Leather are two current leather scrap suppliers.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.