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Minimizing Waste and Water Waste: Reuse of Materials Reduces Costs and Environmental Impact

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Thai Tannery Finds Secondary Uses for Curing Salt

In brief

On a daily basis, this tannery processed 10 tonnes of buffalo hides to produce dog chew that was exported to international markets. Salt added by slaughterhouses in the curing processes represented up to 20-40% of the raw hide weight (each hide weighed approximately 20kg). The cumulative effect of de-salting processes carried out by the 130 tanneries located in two seaside clusters 35km north of Bangkok was contributing to a high salinity of soils in the region.

The challenge

As in most tanneries, salt was removed from incoming raw hides by manual shaking. The salt that fell off during this process fell haphazardly onto the open ground and was later brushed into piles to await disposal. The salt was removed from the premises on a weekly basis, together with other refuse. Small amounts of salt were sometimes swept into the open sewage channel, which led to a central treatment facility. During the rainy season, salt washed into the soil as the de-salting area was not sheltered.

Actions taken within the enterprise (after application of the GHK guide)

Workers were instructed to shake incoming hides over a rack or to rotate the hides in a sieve-like drum to remove and capture 10-20% of the salt from the hide’s surface before soaking. Captured salt was placed in a large, clean container that was used only for the purpose of salt storage.

Pallets used for delivering incoming materials were disassembled, and the wood was used to construct a small shelter for the de-salting area and salt storage to prevent seepage into the soil.

Before reusing the salt for further curing on its own premises, the tannery confirmed with suppliers that pesticides were not used during the preservation process. The presence of banned substances (e.g. PCP, Lindane) would prevent the export of products to Europe, US, etc.

Environmental benefits

Leakage of salt into the soil and ground water was significantly reduced. As well, the proper disposal of salt helped to reduce the tannery’s environmental impact.

A system of just-in-time processing of fresh hides/skins would make a further contribution to reducing environmental impact, as this approach would avoid the use of salt entirely, while at the same time achieving a better quality leather output.

Economic benefits

Investment cost


2 weeks of labour for the construction of a wooden shelter and sieve-like drum

Annual savings

KES 5 per ton of raw hides processed hides

From savings through reduced input of chemicals due to reduced weight of raw hides in the subsequent steps (soaking, liming and deliming)

Payback period



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