Leather Industry Waste Management for Architectural Design
Relevance to Design Practice: The proposed methodology based on Strategic Design allowed us to devise ideas from tanneries’ waste, analyze the feasibility of use in the generation of new products that do not exist on the market, and ensure compliance with design and manufacturing standards for future extrapolation to other residues.
2. Leather Sector
3. Strategies from a Design Point of View
A strategic model based on an approach to the application of design methodologies should focus on the investigation of user needs, understanding the effects and impacts that may result from the use of a product, in addition to analyzing how to improve it. As a complex activity, design considers a continuous action of strategic renewal, a situation that if not considered entails costs in terms of time, as well as human and economic resources, for the company.
The strategic value of design becomes widely evident for a public not accustomed to or that develops outside the design sector; through the trends followed by the masses, design is positioned with products that communicate with people, reaching directly to the ideologies and new customs that are in prominent position. Identifying and sizing trends from new raw materials, environmental awareness, and technologies is the challenge that companies must take into account in view of their economic, social, and political relevance, factors which also affect consumption.
4. Material and Methods
The Discover stage, which refers to divergence, involves the investigation of the context in which the tannery sector develops, understanding its dynamics within the economic and productive system, the internal processes of raw material transformation, and its thinking in terms of sustainability and design. The possibilities within companies to manage waste and perform its treatment up to being sent to sanitary landfills were investigated. The waste generated in the tanneries was analyzed to identify the problem and the opportunity; its possibilities were detected in terms of factors such as composition, malleability, and chip compression.
For the Define stage, through convergent thinking, alternatives for waste management were proposed. From the context analyzed, related and representative sectors were identified as the most dynamic in the local and national economy; of these, the construction sector was selected, which at a national level has constant growth, needs new materials for the development of its projects, and offers approaches, as well as designs, for the integration of sustainable processes for the projects they develop. Thus, the use of leather shavings becomes an input for the generation of new products for construction, taking into account that it is not considered toxic as long as the chromium contained does not decay into hexavalent chromium.
In the Development stage, ideation is carried out through the application of divergent thinking, where the precepts of Strategic Design and product development allow connection with circular processes to obtain the product. Combining waste with stabilizing materials resulted in cobblestones, bricks, agglomerates, and prefabricated plates as alternatives for use based on creative proposals for the definition of shapes. This proposal also analyzed the consensus with companies in the tanning and construction sector as a feasibility factor, considering the awareness of the raw material processed, differences in the tanning process, and substantial variations in the water content of the waste. The commitment of the tannery management is a prerequisite for good environmental performance, considering the awareness of the inputs and outputs of the process with respect to the characteristics of the materials, their quantities, and their potential environmental impacts.
In the Delivery stage, the proposal of ornamental bricks for interior spaces was implemented, thus obtaining a neutral material that guaranteed the confinement of the waste. Its use was certified through the validation of physical–chemical tests of the prototype and subsequent validation by experts in the areas of construction, design, tanners, and the general public. In addition, in relation to comparable products, it is competitive in the market and can be adapted to user requirements in terms of form, function, and color.
5. Results and Discussion
In the first stage, the need for physical spaces for chip processing and dispatching was identified, in addition to the necessary budget; in this regard, there were no public policies or projects dealing with waste recovery. There were several companies that continued with linear processes and environmental impacts.
Acid rain can leach CrIII waste from landfills causing possible oxidation.
Air over a wide pH range has the potential to generate oxidation.
According to Gibbs’ free energy law, spontaneous oxidation can occur in an acidic or alkaline medium.
The bricks were manufactured with different percentages of chip composition, these being 10%, 20%, 30% and 40% in dry weight, in controlled laboratories and in the field, complying with all the properties required by a material for construction, such as resistance, water absorption, shrinkage, weight loss by ignition, and apparent density. The bricks with incorporated chips obtained a compressive strength ranging from 10.98 MPa to 29.61 MPa, with a water absorption ranging from 7.2% to 20.9%, and they met the established ASTM standards for construction materials.
In 2021 in India in the state of Tamil Nadu, around 900 tanneries were identified because the animal skin tanning industry is one of the most polluting industries and causes an unfavorable impact on the environment. Here, approximately 3 MLD of wastewater from tanneries is treated and the resulting sludge weighs about 1.5 tons. This is disposed of in landfills.
There are two possible uses for the blocks in the areas of architecture and interior design; the first option is its application in commercial showcases and the second is in applications for living or waiting rooms. Due to its physical–chemical characteristics, it can be proposed for use in interior and exterior spaces. The proposal emphasizes its application as a modular set for the creation of a decorative block.
As for the manufacturing cost, it should be considered that it will be performed manually through the use of molds and will depend on the shape and design to be considered. For the commercialization, it will have a value of 43.29 USD per m2, which makes it competitive in the market; the cost of decorative pavers can range between 35 USD and 75 USD dollars for each m2. As for the manufacturing cost, it should be considered that it will be produced manually through the use of molds and will depend on the shape and design to be considered. For commercialization, the value of each m2 will be 43.29 USD, making it competitive in the market; the cost of decorative pavers can range from 35 to 75 USD per m2.
The waste generation (solid, liquid, and gaseous) in tanneries generates environmental impacts that have not been mitigated, allowing researchers to analyze and propose novel circular processes within tanneries to obtain new products from this waste.
Strategic Design relates concepts and languages between designers and industries to achieve through interactive action the realization of projects, where they define priority objectives and available resources to respond to new contexts and problems. Furthermore, Sustainable Design harmonizes the social, economic, and environmental sectors by solving difficulties such as health, jobs, and current local business models in these areas.
The Strategic Design model developed is a contribution to the macro trend of achieving the SDGs, especially goal 12, in which, through the convergent and divergent phases, we have identified a problem, defined the solution, developed, and delivered a new product that responds to the management of waste (shavings) generated in the tanning industry to mitigate effects on the environment.
The application of the Double Diamond methodology allows the interaction of actors that form a network between academia (researchers), decentralized autonomous governments, industry, and the construction sector, who are the appropriate actors to jointly develop research projects that contribute positively to society with respect to social responsibility.
A new product has been developed with functional, technical, and aesthetic attributes that can be used in the construction sector due to its constant growth and the innovation in designs and materials. A product was obtained that confined the chip inside to a chromium content of 0.74 mg/kg, had a weight of 300 g, and was modular and aesthetically attractive to the user.
The weighted cost is 43.29 USD, which makes it competitive in the market concerning the price offered for 3D panels used for space design, the price of which range from 30 to 60 USD/m2. The product fulfills its function and generates value by giving a second chance to process waste. It is taken into account that the product derived from waste has a medium-to-long lifetime. Subsequently, the necessary actions must be generated for its treatment when its life cycle is finished.
It is estimated that 120 t per year of shavings from leather trimming processes in a single tannery can be avoided, with a total of 1500 t of this waste being saved at the national level. Waste can be prevented from reaching city dumps and landfills, which cause leachates that cause environmental damage.
It is recommended to test the mechanical strength and water absorption of the new product to determine if the confinement of the chips inside the product does not allow chromium to leach under aqueous conditions. In addition, it can add a hydrolysis process for the chip, which will allow the total elimination of Cr III.
Further research is suggested to determine if the block can contribute as an acoustic or thermal insulator in its final use. At the governmental level, incentives can be developed through public policies for companies that reuse their waste to obtain new products, a practice in other countries. The low industrial development of the peripheral regions can be taken as an opportunity to develop control policies for environmental pollution, but on the other hand, the globalization of companies, production, and commercialization is inexorably transferring the interests of the central countries to the peripheral ones.
It is necessary to continue the project in its intellectual property registration phase and to trademark registration for commercial purposes.
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