For 40 years, from his university laboratory in the Czech Republic, Karel Kolomaznik has been finding ways to recycle huge quantities of waste from leather production.
More than 260 companies from Argentina to India, 1,000 tanneries and many thousands of people have benefited from chemical engineer Karel Kolomaznik’s research to develop industrial processes to recover and recycle potentially toxic waste from the leather industry.
The term ‘waste’ is very relative. If a successful utilization of waste is to be found, then a change in the philosophy of how we look at things is needed, for the waste of one industry may be valuable raw material for another.
Processing one tonne of raw hide produces 200 kg of leather product, 250 kg of non-tanned solid waste, 200 kg of tanned waste, 50,000 kg of waste water, and a total of 8 kg highly polluting chromium. His goal is not only to spare the environment the risk of contamination resulting from the tanning process, but also to create a whole range of other products from waste, from material to make sausage casings to glues for the wood industry, gelatine additives for food for animals, and biodiesel.
Professor Kolomaznik has 10 national patents and two European Union patents for his processes and he and his students have published more than 120 papers in scientific reviews.
He has recently been working to expand application of his work in Asia, where most of the tanning industry has now moved, and to other areas such as agriculture, cosmetics, pharmacology and the rubber, plastics and construction industries.
Amount of raw hide required to produce 200 kg of leather