Vegan ‘faux’ leather alternatives to real leather have existed for a couple of decades already, but the options out there are continuously improving in quality, making it a more accessible than ever. With the variety of options increasing, it can be a bit confusing as to what these materials are made of and, especially, which vegan leather alternative is the most eco-friendly.

All vegan leather is usually made of bonding a plastic coating with a fabric backing. However, the specific process and types of plastic used varies and this is what determines its environmental impact.

The two most common vegan leathers are PU leather and PVC leather.

PVC leather, short for Polyvinyl Chloride, is the cheaper and more accessible option. It is made by chemically altering vinyl– a flexible plastic resin. It is typically combined with a variety of fillers to change the texture, colour, shape, and effects to suit different leather products. This makes it very applicable for uses in faux leather furniture and in fashion. However, the production of PVC causes harmful dioxins and uses highly toxic chlorine, making it known as a highly environmentally damaging plastic.

On the other hand, Polyurethane (known as PU leather) is made out of a synthetic polymer that is easy to manipulate. It is a more lightweight, and elastic alternative and known to be a closer imitation to real leather. Although it is a slightly more expensive option than PVC leather, it is still highly accessible and applicable for use in many different faux leather products. The best thing about PU leather is that it is a much greener alternative to PVC, both in production and after-care. It does not require the same highly toxic chemical plasticizers and is more degradable over time.

At Wana Bana, PU leather sourced locally in Colombia is currently used in all bags and wallets. With more alternatives to real leather becoming available, it is important to us to stay up to date with what the next most eco-friendly leather alternative is. It is also inspiring that companies are starting to look to natural materials, such as mushroom, pineapple, and hemp to produce leather-like fabrics that are high in quality and much better for the environment. Wana Bana hopes to join in with this shift towards even greener alternatives.

 Pic credits: Greenhouse Fabrics