The synthetic leather market is dominated by polyurethane coating products and these are increasingly moving towards water-based systems. Jane Ho visited Covestro in Shanghai and found out more.
In the past the world of synthetic leather was dominated by plasticised polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coated leather-cloth products, but technology changed and polyurethane systems started to take market share. Now solvent-based polyurethane systems are dominant and, as technology evolved to replace polyvinyl chloride, so it continues to evolve; waterborne systems are starting to eat into the world of solvent-based polyurethane systems.
China is the home of synthetic leather production and even small changes in the volume of solvents used there could have a big impact on the global environment and long-term health of many people.
To put it in perspective over 4 bn m² (4000km²)-year of PU synthetic leather worth $10bn are manufactured worldwide every year.
Fully, 90% comes from China, according to China Plastics Processing Industry Association’s synthetic leather committee, sometimes translated into China Synthetic Leather Association. The country has 500 PU leather makers with 1,500 production lines spread between Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.
Shoes, bags, clothing
Each year, China produces…