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Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency

Environmental Guidelines for

Tanning and Leather Finishing


Industry Description and Practices • retanning, dyeing, and fat-liquoring to
impart special properties to the leather, increase
Preservation of hides and skins is sometimes penetration of tanning solution, replenish oils in
performed to enable raw hides and skins to the hides and impart color to the leather; and
reach leather tanneries in an acceptable • finishing to final product specification.
condition. Commonly used preservation
techniques include drying, salting, and chilling. Waste Characteristics
The use of environmentally persistent toxics for
preservation of raw hides and skins is to be The potential environmental impacts of tanning
avoided. In the tanning process, animal hides are significant. A composite untreated
and skins are treated to remove hair, and wastewater, 20 to 80 cubic meters per metric ton
nonstructured proteins and fats, leaving an (m3/t) of hide or skin, is turbid, colored, and
essentially pure collagen matrix. The hides are foul smelling. It consists of acidic and alkaline
then preserved by impregnation with tanning liquors, with chromium levels from 100 to 400
agents. Leather production usually involves milligrams per liter (mg/L), sulfide levels from
three distinct phases: (a) preparation (in the 200 to 800 mg/L, nitrogen levels from 200 to
beamhouse); (b) tanning (in the tanyard); and 1,000 mg/L, biochemical oxygen demand
(c) finishing, including dyeing and surface (BOD5) levels from 900 to 6,000 mg/L, (usually
treatment. A wide range of processes and ranging from 160 to 24,000), chemical oxygen
chemicals (including chrome salts) are used in demand (COD) (ranging from 800 to 43,000
the tanning and finishing processes. mg/L in separate streams with combined
The tanning and finishing process generally wastewater levels of 2,400 to 14,000 (mg/L),
consists of: and chloride (200 to 70,000 mg/L in individual
• soaking and washing to remove salt, streams and 5,600 to 27,000 mg/L in the
restore the moisture contents of the hides, and combined stream) and high levels of fat.
remove any foreign material such as dirt and Suspended solids are usually half of chloride
manure; levels. It may also contain residues of pesticides
• liming to open up the collagen structure used to preserve hides during transport and
by removing interstitial material; pathogens at significant levels. Significant
• fleshing to remove excess tissue from the volumes of solid wastes are produced,
interior of the hide; including trimmings, degraded hide, and hair
• dehairing/dewooling to remove from the beamhouse processes. The solid
hair/wool either by mechanical or chemical wastes can represent up to 70% of the (wet)
means; weight of the original hides. In addition, large
• bating and pickling to delime the skins, quantities of sludges are generated. Decaying
and condition the hides to receive the tanning organic material produces strong odors.
agents; Hydrogen sulfide is released during dehairing.
• tanning to stabilize the hide material and Ammonia is released during deliming. Air
impart basic properties to the hides; quality may be further degraded by release of

499
Tanning and Leather Finishing 500

solvent vapors from spray application, • Use photocell assisted paint spraying
degreasing, and finishing (for example, dye techniques to avoid over spraying.
application). • Precondition hides before vegetable
tanning.
Pollution Prevention and Control Through good management, water use can
be reduced by 30-50% to 25 liters per kilograms
The design of new plants should address the (L/kg) of raw material. Actions to reduce water
following process modifications: consumption should include the following:
• Process fresh hides or skins to reduce the • Monitoring and control of process waters–
quantity of salt in wastewater, where feasible. reductions of up to 50% can be achieved.
• Reduce the quantities of salt used for • Batch washing instead of continuous
preservation. When salted skins are used as raw washing -- reductions of up to 50%.
material, pretreat the skins with salt elimination • Use low float methods such as having 40-
methods. 80% floats. Recycle liming, pickling, and
• Use salt or chilling methods to preserve tanning floats. Recycle sulfide in spent liming
hides instead of persistent insecticides and liquor after screening to reduce sulfide losses
fungicides. (say by 20-50%) and lime loss (say by 40-60%).
• When antiseptics/biocides are necessary, • Use of drums instead of pit for immersion
avoid toxic and less degradable ones especially of hides.
those containing arsenic, mercury, lindane, • Reuse of wastewaters for washing—for
pentachlorophenol or other chlorinated example, by recycling lime wash water to the
substances. soaking stage. Reuse treated wastewaters in the
• Fleshing of green hides instead of limed process to the extent feasible (such as in soaking
hides. and pickling).
• Use sulfide and lime as a 20-50% solution Waste reduction measures should include
to reduce sulfide levels in wastewater. the following:
• Split limed hides to reduce the amount of • Recover hide trimmings for use in the
chrome needed for tanning. manufacture of glue, gelatin, and similar
• Consider the use of carbon dioxide in products.
deliming to reduce ammonia in wastewater. • Recover grease for rendering. Use aqueous
• Use only trivalent chrome when required degreasing methods.
for tanning. • Recycle wastes to the extent feasible in the
• Inject tanning solution in the skin using manufacture of fertilizer, animal feed, and
high pressure nozzles and implement chrome tallow provided the quality of these is not
recovery from chrome containing wastewaters compromised.
which should be kept segregated from other • Use tanned shavings in leather board
wastewaters. Recycle chrome after precipitation manufacture.
and acidification. Improve fixation of chrome • Control odor problems by good
by addition of dicarboxylic acids. housekeeping, such as minimal storage of flesh
• Recycle spent chrome liquor to the tanning trimmings and organic material.
process or to the pickling vat. • Recover energy from the drying process to
• Examine alternatives to chrome in heat process water.
tanning, such as titanium, aluminum, iron
zirconium, and vegetable tanning agents. Target Pollution Loads
• Use non organic solvents for dyeing and
finishing. Implementation of cleaner production processes
• Recover hair by using hair saving methods and pollution prevention measures can provide
(for example, avoid dissolving hair in chemical both economic and environmental benefits. The
both by proper choice of chemicals and use following production-related waste load figures
screens to remove them from wastewater) to can be achieved by implementing measures
reduce pollution loads. such as those detailed in the previous section.
501 Tanning and Leather Finishing

The figures are for the waste loads arising from Minimization of solvent release and good
the production processes before the addition of ventilation can avoid the need for collection and
pollution control measures. treatment of vapors in carbon adsorption beds.
These levels are derived from typical loads VOC emissions from finishing are
recorded in industry studies and should be approximately 30 kg/t if pollution prevention
used as maximum levels of unit pollution in the measures are not adopted.
design of new plants. Maximum upstream pollutant reduction is
essential for tanneries, but treatment is also
Target Loads per Unit of Production required.
Maximum value
Parameter (kg per t raw material) Emission Guidelines
BOD5 40
Emission levels for the design and operation of
COD 140 each project must be established through the
Nitrogen 7 Environmental Assessment (EA) process, based
Chromium 6 (aim for 1.5) on country legislation and the Pollution
Sulfide 1 Prevention and Abatement Handbook as applied to
local conditions. The emission levels selected
Solid waste 500
must be justified in the EA and acceptable to
Effluent flow rate 30,000 (aim for 15,000) MIGA.
Sources: UNEP, 1991, and Indian Standards Institution, 1977. The following guidelines present emission
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) levels normally acceptable to the World Bank
emissions from finishing of less than 4 (aim for Group in making decisions regarding provision
2) kg/t (by using techniques such as water of World Bank Group assistance, including
based paints and roller coating). MIGA guarantees; any deviations from these
levels must be described in the project
documentation.
Treatment Technologies The guidelines are expressed as
concentrations to facilitate monitoring. Dilution
Treatment of tannery wastewaters is always of air emissions or effluents to achieve these
required. Some streams, such as soaking liquor guidelines is unacceptable.
(which has high salinity), sulfide-rich lime All of the maximum levels should be
liquor, and chrome wastewaters should be achieved for at least 95% of the time that the
segregated. Preliminary screening of plant or unit is operating, to be calculated as a
wastewaters is required because of the large proportion of annual operating hours.
quantities of solids present. Hair recovery from
the dehairing and liming process reduces the Air Emissions
BOD of the process effluent. Physical-chemical
treatment precipitates metals and removes a Odor controls should be implemented to reduce
large portion of solids and BOD5/COD. impacts on nearby residents.
Biological treatment is usually required to
reduce the remaining organic loads to Liquid Effluents
acceptable levels (0.3 kg BOD, 2 kg COD, and
0.004 kg chromium per metric ton of raw hide. For tanning and leather finishing, the following
effluent levels should be achieved:
Tanning and Leather Finishing 502

Effluents from Tanning and Leather Finishing The emission requirements given here can be
Processes consistently achieved by well-designed, well-
Parameter Maximum value operated and well-maintained pollution control
milligrams per liter systems.
(mg/L)
Monitoring and Reporting
pH 6-9
BOD5 50 Frequent sampling may be required during
COD 250 start-up and upset conditions. Once a record of
Total suspended 50 consistent performance has been established,
solids sampling for the parameters listed above
Oil and grease 10 should be on a monthly basis.
Annual monitoring for pesticides should be
Sulfide 1.0 carried out and, if pesticides are present at
Chromium 0.1 levels of 0.05 mg/L and above, corrective
(hexavalent) actions should be taken.
Chromium (total) 0.5 Monitoring data should be analyzed and
Nitrogen (NH4-N) 10 reviewed at regular intervals and compared
with the operating standards so that any
Phosphorus (total) 2
necessary corrective actions can be taken.
Coliform 400 Most Probable Records of monitoring results should be kept in
Number/100 ml an acceptable format. These should be reported
to the responsible authorities and relevant
Note: Effluent requirements are for direct parties, as required, and provided to MIGA if
discharge to surface waters. requested.

Solid Wastes Key Issues

Solid wastes and sludges must be disposed of in The following box summarizes the key
a secure landfill. production and control practices that will lead
to compliance with emissions guidelines:
Ambient Noise
• Minimize chrome use; avoid the use of
Noise abatement measures should achieve hexavalent chrome and use trivalent chrome
either the following levels or a maximum instead; recover and recycle chrome.
increase in background levels of 3 dB(A).
• Give preference to the following:
Measurements are to be taken at noise receptors
located outside the project property boundary. - Avoid the use of hides treated with persistent
insecticides and fungicides.
- Use non-organic solvents for dyeing and
Ambient Noise
finishing.
Maximum Allowable Leq
- Minimize storage of flesh trimmings and
(hourly), in dB(A)
organic material.
Receptor Daytime Nighttime
• Adopt the following pollution prevention
07:00 - 22:00 22:00 - 07:00 measures to reduce water use:
Residential; 55 45
- Monitor and control process waters.
institutional;
educational - Use batch instead of continuous washing.
Industrial; 70 70
- Use drums for immersion of hides.
commercial
503 Tanning and Leather Finishing

- Reuse wash water and recycle floats. Tanneries. Final Report, Nordic Council of
Ministers.
- Segregate wastewater streams to simplify
treatment.
Indian Standards Institution. 1977. Guide for
- Minimize solid waste by recovery and reuse of Treatment and Disposal of Effluents of Tanning
hide trimmings. Industry. New Delhi, India.

Further Information United Nations Environment Programme


(UNEP). 1991. Tanneries and the Environment: A
The following are suggested as sources of Technical Guide to Reducing the Environmental
additional information (these sources are Impact of Tannery Operations.
provided for guidance and are not intended to
be comprehensive): World Bank, Environment Department. 1996.
"Pollution Prevention and Abatement: Tanning
Danish Technological Institute. 1992. Possibilities and Leather Finishing." Technical Background
for a Reduction of the Pollution Load from Document.