Imitation leather is most often made from PVC, drawing criticism from some environmentalists. But Taiwanese product manufacturer General silicones maybe found a solution. Environmental issues with plastics such as PVC are well known – they are made from fossil fuels and do not biodegrade, but break down into microplastics which harm wildlife and pollute the environment.
On the other hand, the leather of General Silicones is mainly composed of natural silica, which is basically the composition of sand. It doesn’t break down into smaller particles like plastics do, and it doesn’t produce toxic fumes if incinerated. It is extremely tough and durable, as well as safe for the skin, waterproof and resistant to UV and heat.
The perfect alternative?
While silicone leather may seem like an ideal solution, that’s not quite the story. Although it is made primarily from natural materials, non-renewable carbon (usually coal) is also required. And the durability of silicone can be negative rather than positive because it does not biodegrade and is very difficult to recycle.
But as General Silicones pointed out, the fact that it doesn’t break down means it can’t leach toxins or form microplastics. And because it’s so durable, it can reduce waste in the long run.
The company has been making silicone products for over 50 years, but only recently started making alternatives to leather due to growing demand. He says his mission is “to help improve our quality of life and leave the next generation with a pollution-free environment.”
Silicone isn’t the only alternative to plastic-free leather – companies around the world are now making vegan leather from mushrooms, cacti, apples, and more. While it can be argued that these biodegradable alternatives are the only way forward, others can say that any move away from plastics and animal materials is a positive.
General Silicones’ product also has some advantages – it is available in rolls that manufacturers can use as a direct replacement for PVC faux leather, and it is easily upgradeable. Like many problems, the problems associated with conventional leather production have a range of possible solutions, and General Silicones’ leather alternative may be one of them.