In writing this article I've referenced the full articles at the bottom of this page. You can read these articles for more information about Recycled Leather.
When I first heard about Recycled Leather for upholstery I imagined that the process of making it might be something like this:
"The process of recycling leather involves treating and recycling leather residues that are discarded by tanneries and other leather product industries and using it in the production of composite materials. To recycle leather, first the leather residues and scraps must be shredded. Next, the resulting blend of shredded leather material is glued together with resin and catalysers. This product is then pressed between metallic molds of various shapes and sizes, or directly on sublayers to form plywoods, and then structured into the desired item. The final product has a very polished appearance and there is no need for any additional finishing.1"
I had thought that Recycled Leather for upholstery would be an all-leather product. However that process is not the process used to make upholstery grade recycled leather.
"Disparaged by many when it hit the market about five years ago, bonded leather continues to gain wide acceptance as an alternative to genuine leather as upholstery manufacturers and retailers struggle to remain competitive during a prolonged industry slump."2
Here is what one Recycled Leather supplier says about it:
"It's difficult to tell the difference between real leather upholstery and ReCast® bonded leather upholstery. Made with recycled leather particles bonded to the back of the fabric, ReCast contains about 18% recycled leather. The surface of ReCast® bonded leather upholstery is polyurethane giving it exceptional performance qualities and a true leather-like feel. Each pattern has tremendous physical properties, is easy to clean, and will easily exceed 100,000 Wyzenbeek abrasion cycles."3
"But as with bycast in the past, bonded leather now has been given the yellow light — "proceed with caution" — by Top 100 retailers and independents that see it as an attractive, affordable alternative to genuine hides.....Among the bonded leather products in the marketplace is NextLeather, a registered trademark from Design Resources Inc. Comprised of 61% polyurethane, 22% poly/cotton and 17% leather, "It is a polyurethane face on a fabric core," said President Alan Naness.4"
Even though the names "bonded leather" or "recycled leather" are confusing and even misleading, the material itself is good quality.
"The term "bonded leather" is convenient shorthand within the industry, but it's bound to confuse consumers, who are likely to hear only the word "leather." Even worse, true bonded leather is produced more like a paper product, which would be a terribly inferior cover for upholstery.
These are good products with plenty to recommend them. There's really no need to suggest they are leather. Most of these products are extremely durable. Oekopelle, for example, has been tested to more than 100,000 double rubs for durability, which exceeds industry standards.5"
To better understand the term "recycled leather" be sure to read the full articles that are referenced at the bottom of this page. While the industry calls these materials recycled or rebonded leathers, we prefer to call them "simulated leather" (simulated to look like leather) or, to be even simple, call them vinyl.