Old tanneries are not just polluters but also dangerous

The Toggler blog
Published:  12 June, 2014

I read Su Chaoying’s summary of what is happening in Wuji and Xinji with interest. Mr Su has made an excellent summary and identified the very positive approach being taken with regard to the pollution emanating from these poorly performing tanneries. Making them larger so that the investment/capacity ratio can be effective (it is worthwhile to invest in tanneries of a certain size), clarifying what will be done to prevent the discharge of untreated or poorly treated effluent with larger tanneries treating their own water or the reconstruction of the common effluent treatment plant. 

This issue is not just relevant in China. There are other zones around the world with equally poor performance, eg what is happening in places like Kanpur in India? Kanpur is a tanning area, located inland with their tanning zones having a poor reputation for water treatment; are these tanneries still quietly being closed for religious holidays in an attempt to cover up what is happening and then opening up again straight after to continue discharging tannery waste waters direct to the Ganges? I look forward to hearing from the representatives here that they are taking the situation as seriously as China appears to be.

But these poorly operated and antiquated tanneries are not only discharging dirty water they are using also using dangerous equipment that is 50 years out of date. There are many tanning zones around the world (China, Thailand, India and many more) that allow polluted water to flow in open drains and with processing equipment inside the tanneries that is so old it would be rejected by museums in an country operating sensible health and safety rules. What do I mean? I still see splitting machines with the fly wheel and band knife fully exposed, processing drums revolving with no safety barriers, operators working in beamhouses without shoes (ie in lime liquors with bare feet) and with drum being driven by open belts around motors (and I could list more). Tanneries have wet floors and slippery surfaces so these issues are extremely dangerous to operators. These operational activities were banned in the so-called developed world decades ago, so why are they still allowed to operate? Firstly the tannery managements don’t care; if they did – they would do something about it. There is a tendency for this type of company to be averse to investment. Finally there is a lack of interest by the authorities (to implement whatever rules are in place); whether this is apathy or corruption I would not know but the outcome is the same, these old tanneries are not only polluters but also dangerous places to work. Cleaning up the external pollution these antiquated tanneries discharge is one (very important) issue but behind the factory gate, inside the production areas lurks another situation that needs to be addressed that should not be a part of today’s modern tanning industry.

The Toggler

thetoggler@internationalleathermaker.com

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