New Zealand scientists have devised a world-first, one-step method of processing lamb skins which is less harmful to the
environment and adds value to the product.
Leather and Shoe Research Association director Tony Passman says his team has found a method of treating skins by
applying enzymes that achieve the same results as the old method, but with no heating and minimal use of chemicals.
In the new process, which is funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, enzymes selectively remove
non-collagenous compounds from lamb skin to bring out the desirable properties in the final leather.
Mr Passman says the quality of the pelts generated by this process is superior to that of the current system.
Lamb pelt processing has previously entailed several stages that have resulted in pollution problems, with the risk of
damage to the pelt and the need for waste treatment and disposal. The processes required a lot of energy, large
quantities of water and careful treatment of the effluent before discharge.
“The new process is important because New Zealand is the world’s main exporter of lamb pelts. Skin processing
contributes significant export income – the hide-skin-leather industry is one of New Zealand’s top 10 foreign-exchange
earners,” Mr Passman says.