Leather is only second to ready-made garments as a source of national export revenues, with Bangladeshi leather exports accounting for 10% of global demand. However, the industry, particularly the tannery subsector, has been plagued in recent years. There are several causes for this situation but major causes are unplanned design and planning, an unskilled workforce, and destructive environmental practices that have brought international criticism and sanctions.
The current industrial activity pattern alters the natural flow of materials and introduces novel chemicals into the environment. Our society generates waste from all sectors, including industry, agriculture, mining, energy, transportation, construction, and consumers. Industrial wastes are typically generated by a variety of industrial processes. The amount and toxicity of waste released from industrial activities vary according to the industrial process.
Tannery industrialists discharged untreated polluted waste water through sewage lines and drainage pipes. Polluted water eliminated aquatic life and that river water is not suitable for use. However, in 2017, the tanners were compelled to relocate their factories to the newly established Tannery Industrial Estate (TIE) in Savar, completing a government effort that began in 2001.
One of the key development drivers for the country, according to the government, is “leather products and footwear.” Bangladesh’s leather sector produces clothing, shoes, belts, purses, and jackets, as well as suitcases, wallets, and other high-end items.
The environmental impact of the leather tanning industry is a growing concern. The amount of water consumed by tanneries varies greatly depending on the processes, raw materials used, and finished products. However, a large amount of freshwater is used to treat leather, and many potentially hazardous chemicals, such as chromium, synthetic tannins, oils, resins, biocides, and detergents, are released. In Bangladesh, industrial waste has gradually increased, and as a result of rapid industrialization, such waste products have caused severe contamination of the air, water, and soils, polluting the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency recently identified 900 large polluting industries that lack effluent and waste treatment facilities.
This industry has a large number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), and a shortage of funding for these businesses is a major restriction. Banks and other financial institutions are reluctant to lend to smaller tanneries and manufacturers. Lack of financial support, those small and mid-range tannery industries are not capable of environmentally friendly design. According to the Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB), The local demand for leather footwear and commodities was estimated to be worth Tk 160 billion. However, 40% of the demand was supplied by importing items from other countries.
Bangladesh now contains 165 footwear and leather manufacturers, as well as 161 tanneries that turn raw hides into finished leather. According to EPB data, exports of leather, leather items, and footwear were USD 1.08 billion in the fiscal year 2017-18. Bangladesh exported $1.23 billion in leather and leather items in 2016-17, up from $1.16 billion the previous fiscal year. Leather footwear was the most important contributing sector, with exports totalling 461.72 million US dollars from July 2020 to April 2021.
Tannery industries need urgent environmental planning including proper waste management, Water management by using Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP), managing noise pollution, improved drainage system, managing air and water pollution etc.
Environmental planning is a specialization within the field of planning. The term environment refers to the biotic and abiotic factors and components that surround us. It includes air quality, water quality (surface or groundwater), micro and macroclimatic conditions, soil, flora and fauna, agricultural lands and their interactions with the built environment and so on. Environmental planning prioritizes the environment while also addressing associated issues/problems.
There are various sources of environmental pollutants, each with its own set of mechanisms affecting the ecosystem. When compared to other industries, the leather processing industry is one of the most important, followed by the pesticide and paint processing industries.
One of the urgent environmental planning for tannery industries is waste management. Waste is so much harmful to human health and the environment as well. Waste management entails the regular collection, transportation, processing, disposal, recycling, and monitoring of various types of waste materials.
Waste disposal has significant environmental consequences and can lead to serious problems. Needless to say, the most important reason for proper waste management is to protect the environment as well as the population’s health and safety. It is a critical issue that must be addressed, and everyone should understand why waste segregation can mean the difference between the survival of the earth and the deterioration of the natural biological system.
Waste management has consistently been a source of contention. Waste management is the process of handling waste materials from the time they are created until they are disposed of. This includes how the company or business collects, transports, processes, recycles or disposes of its waste.
As part of environmental management, effective treatment of tannery effluent is a critical need of the era. Among all wastewater treatment technologies, bioremediation is the most effective and environmentally friendly tool for water pollution management.
Solid wastes containing organic (leather trimmings, residual flesh, etc.) and inorganic components (salts, tanning agents, etc.) account for a sizable portion of tanning waste. If these wastes are not treated, they pose serious health and environmental risks. As a result, managing tannery solid wastes becomes critical.
This solid waste management option can also be used to manage tannery waste. This will be especially useful in recovering waste salt and reusing it in subsequent tanning operations, resulting in significant cost savings in salt procurement. In addition, to recover chromium, a chromium recycling system can be established. This will aid in reducing the risk of chromium contamination in waterways, protecting public health, and meeting future chromium demand in subsequent tanning operations.
The concept of recycling and reusing can also be applied to treated liquid effluents. Following tanning operations, the treated wastewater can be reused. This will reduce pollution of freshwater sources and encourage freshwater resource conservation as well as environmental protection.
Industrial waste is generated as a result of industrial activities. However, it becomes dangerous when improperly manipulated. Tannery wastes are among the most polluting industrial wastes because they are rancid. Because most tanneries lack treatment facilities and environmental management systems, their wastes are simply discharged into the environment. As a result, they are causing serious environmental and public health issues in specific areas. As a result, unless appropriate environmental management is implemented, this sector will perish. A study was conducted to improve the environmental performance and, as a result, the productivity of our tanneries. Finally, adequate preventive measures should be implemented in tannery industrial activities to ensure a safe, sound, and healthy environment.
The authors of this article are the student of Dept. of Environmental Science and Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University.