Tong Hong Tannery strives to eliminate waste
How a Chinese leathermaker has taken steps to turn its scraps into a valuable product used in furniture production.
Many industries need to deal with solid waste materials, including that involved in making leather. Since being founded in 1990, long-time SATRA Gold Member Tong Hong Tannery Group is said to have become the largest split leather producer in the world with production bases in Vietnam, China and Indonesia. The overall tanning process – including the necessary trimming of wet blue hides – results in solid waste in the form of raw material scraps that in the past has been incinerated. Looking into making continuous improvements to their disposal methods for solid waste, the company’s management knew that Tong Hong Tannery could do better.
In 2018, the company embarked on a journey to responsibly deal with its wet blue hide waste. It was discovered that this solid waste could be up-cycled into an environmentally-friendly product – a useful industrial gelatine substance that can be used in furniture production.
Over the next three years, Tong Hong invested more than USD 13 million (GBP 10.8 million) in establishing a new production operation at its Vietnam tannery. This facility reportedly uses state-of-the-art technology to extract gelatine from wet blue waste using a chromium extraction/collection system, which is then refined into an environmentally-safe product. According to the company, this gelatine product is 100 per cent organic, includes no harmful chemicals and does not result in any solvent emissions.
To handle this added process, Tong Hong’s waste water treatment system has also been upgraded. This has resulted in up to 80 per cent of the recycled water produced being used within the leathermaking process, with the remaining 20 per cent – reserved for farming – being released in a cleaner form than when it was first put into the system.
Tong Hong’s new gelatine extraction process was successfully tested in trials in late 2021 and, since May 2022, the system has been fully operational. The company states that it has been able to move from incinerating its most voluminous waste stream into making this marketable industrial gelatine product that uses 100 per cent of its wet blue waste.
Products and facilities
Tong Hong Tannery’s primary products are suede, PU-coated leather, hydro PU-coated leather, recycled PU-coated leather and suede, and other fashion items made from split leather. The company has received Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold Medals for many of its production processes.
Tong Hong China was established in Guangdong in 1990. This facility became the company’s sales and marketing office and warehouse when, in the following year, a production base and headquarters was opened in Guangxi. The China factory covers an area of almost
769,000 m2 and has a SATRA-accredited laboratory. The daily capacity for this plant is 150,000 square feet of suede and an additional 200,000 square feet of PU-coated leather.
Tong Hong Vietnam was set up in VungTau during 2005 due to a number of shoe factories moving to Vietnam in the early 2000s. It was on this site that the Tong Hong Gelatine factory was established in 2019. The Vietnam factory covers an area of just under 112,500 m2, produces up to 150,000 square feet of suede and 180,000 square feet of PU-coated leather every day, and also has a SATRA Accredited Laboratory.
Tong Hong Indonesia has been located in Banten since 2011. This facility is said to play a supporting but pivotal role within the Group by meeting increasing demand for production capacity and by serving local customers. The Tong Hong Indonesia plant covers nearly 49,000 m2, has a workforce of around 300 people and currently has a PU-coated production capacity of four million square feet per month.
This article was originally published on page 20 of the September 2022 issue of SATRA Bulletin.