Innovative companies are finding alternative materials for vegan leather. Vegan leather can now be made from mushrooms, plastic, bananas, cork, cactus and coconuts.

Previously, vegan leather options included petroleum based plastics. Far from being eco-friendly, these synthetics also looked cheap and are difficult to clean. Leather made from cactus and other plant-based materials is eco-friendly because of its longevity and abundance.

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Toronto-based company Samara makes vegan leather from apple peels. Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez are Mexico-based inventors that made leather from nopal cactus. Vegan leather made from apple peels uses recycled peels from juicing. The apple-based leather is still made with a polyurethane binding agent, the designers told Tree Hugger that its’ still less harmful than PVC.

MycoWorks makes vegan leather out of mycelium, the tissue from mushrooms. Malai is a PETA-approved vegan leather producer. Their product is made from agricultural waste from the coconut industry. And don’t forget cork! Leather made using cork is durable and vegan.

Veggani is another vegan brand that makes leather out of apple peels. Happy Genie, an Italian company that uses apple peels in production describes the process in Material District. Apple waste is dried and ground into a powder, mixed with pigments and binders and then spread into a canvas until it turns into a “leather” material.

Synthetic vegan leather, or “pleather” has raised concerns about environmental damage since its made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). PVC is made with  productions that release harmful chemicals into the environment. PU requires oil based polymers that come from fossil fuels. These materials do not biodegrade and can release harmful toxins and phlathates. Bio-based products like nopal cactus or apple peels do not contain harmful toxins or require fossil fuel laden production.

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