Life Biopol


The leather industry requires high amounts of water and chemicals. The chemicals normally used in the tanning industry are of petrochemical origin, which is due to the easy availability of fossil raw materials and their relative chemical stability.

It is estimated that, according to the European Dangerous Substance Directive (67/548/EEC), about 31% of the volume of chemicals used in the tanning sector in Europe are hazardous substances. 62% of these are used in Italy.

The BREF (Best Available Techniques Reference Document) and the Community IPPC Directive of 2008 strongly recommend both the reduction of water consumption and the reduction of tanning waste; they also push towards the identification of effective and sustainable alternatives to obviate the use of dangerous and polluting substances.

Description of the project

LIFE BIOPOL is a project co-funded by the European Union under the life 2014-2020 programme. The project involves five public and private entities: Codyeco, in the chemical industry, responsible for the management of the project, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Ilsa, a Vicenza company operating in the biotechnology sector, and the Spanish tanneries Dercosa and Inpelsa.

The objective of LIFE BIOPOL is to enhance animal and plant biomass, transforming them from by-products into new resources for the production of biopolymers with tanning and fattening capabilities, as an alternative to chemical auxiliaries of petrochemical origin, currently used in the tanning process.

Biopolymers are produced using some industrial waste or by-products as a raw material, in order to improve the circular economy between industrial sectors.

The project aims to enhance waste from the agricultural and tanning industry, modifying these secondary resources in raw material to produce products with high tanning and greased characteristics.

LIFE BIOPOL meets many aspects considered important by European legislation, such as in particular the improvement of water management, the reduction of dangerous and polluting substances and the reduction of the environmental footprint of chemical substances. The development of the new products began on a pilot scale and was carried out in an industrial prototype plant specially designed to implement the new technology. The industrial production of biopolymers has allowed for the performance of the new products in the tannery to be tested on bovine leather, ovo-goat leather and split leather. The entire project was evaluated through a life cycle assessment study in order to minimise and calculate the environmental footprint of the new technology.


  • To design and build a prototype industrial plant capable of producing the new ecological formulations.
  • To exploit industrial waste by developing safe and environmentally friendly biopolymers.
  • To increase circular economies between different industrial sectors.
  • To prove that the new products have similar or better performance on leather compared to chemical agents of petrochemical origin.
  • To reduce the polluting load in the tanning drains and the consumption of water using new technology.