Dutch design company Fruitleather Rotterdam have devised a way to create a leather-like material from discarded mangoes.
The inspiration for the project came about after Fruitleather Rotterdam founders and designers Koen Meerkerk and Hugo de Boon saw just how much food is wasted in their hometown. While studying design at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Koen Meerkerk and Hugo de Boon and their group were tasked with setting up a flash retail event. After brainstorming, the group decided to focus their work on social issues at the same time, and tackle the widespread problem of food waste.
For several months, the group of multi-disciplinary designers collected “waste” from Rotterdam’s market, the biggest outdoor market in the Netherlands, and developed a particular process using fruit — mangos, oranges, nectarines, apples and more — to manufacture material.
They looked at the different techniques chefs use to create flavour experiences with fruits and vegetables. One of those techniques is to mash, cook and then dry fruits to make them into a candy like piece of fruit called fruitleather. By producing this on large scale with the unsellable fruits from the market, a new kind of material is created. This material can be used in many different ways, creating many different products.
Each year 1.3 billion tones of food is thrown away worldwide. This is approximately one third of the entire production. From all the fruit that is produced for consumption, 45% gets thrown away. Around 30% of the earth’s agricultural land is used to produce food that eventually will be thrown away. Farmers tend to leave up to 40% of their harvest in the fields, because it does not meet the cosmetic standards for the supermarkets.
With its unique material, Fruitleather Rotterdam aims to solve two environmental issues – food waste and the production of animal leather. Koen Meerkerk and Hugo de Boon said: “Besides the problem of food waste, the production of animal leather is also an environmental problem. The impact is largest among poorer and less developed regions in the world.
“Every year, more then a billion animals are slaughtered so that the hides can be used. The cleaning process which the hides undergo produce world wide approximately 650 million kilos of CO2.
“What if we did not see fruit waste as a residue but as a valuable starting material? Over the years we have been experimenting on how to convert left-over fruit into leather-like material. By doing so, we are able to bring a eco-friendly and animal-friendly product to the market.”
“Our aim is that Fruitleather can be made into footwear and fashion accessories and can be used in the interior and furnishing industry. The two worlds of fruit and leather are combined where the waste of the fruit industry is used to radically change the world of the polluting leather industry.”
When Koen Meerkerk and Hugo de Boon started producing Fruitleather, they experimented with many different types of fruit. During the development they noticed that mangoes worked very well in this stage, and created a handbag made completely out of mango leather material as a prototype to illustrate the durability of this eco-friendly leather.
Today Fruitleather Rotterdam work specifically on the production of mango sheets only. The design duo do not make or sell products themselves, but focus purely on the production of the material so that designers and brands can apply it to the products they wish to make.
Fruitleather Rotterdam currently sells its mango fruit leather sheets via its website. The mango fruit leather sheets are available in four colours including natural black, natural brown, natural beige and boreaux red.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com