From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
Bonded leather, also called reconstituted leather or blended leather, is a term used for a lower-cost upholstery material which consists of natural leather leftovers that are shredded and then bonded back into larger sheets. Related products, bicast leather or coated leather, are made by splitting, shaving, or grinding leather to reduce its thickness, and then laminating or coating it with a thin layer of plastic. Bonded leather should not be confused with artificial leather or synthetic leather, which is a simulated material without any natural leather content at all.
Bonded leather is made by shredding leather scraps and leather fiber, then mixing it with adhesives, plastics (often polyurethane) or other bonding materials. The mixture is next extruded onto a cloth, cardboard, or paper backing, and the surface is usually embossed with a leather-like texture or grain. Color and patterning, if any, are a surface treatment that does not penetrate like a dyeing process would. The natural leather fiber content of bonded leather is often as low as 10-20%. Some leather-like composites can be regarded as plastics reinforced by the addition of natural leather fibers, and have been compared to particle board. The manufacturing process is somewhat similar to the production of paper.
Bonded leathers may be coated with thin layer of plastic, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane, to give a glossy and smooth decorative finish. As the surface layer wears away or ages, the appearance of the product may change. Lower-quality materials may suffer flaking of the surface material in as little as a few years, while better varieties are considered very durable. Because the composition of bonded leathers and related products varies considerably (and sometimes is a trade secret), it may be difficult to predict how a given product will perform over the course of time. There is a wide range in the longevity of bonded leathers and related products; some better-quality bonded leathers are claimed to be superior in durability over low-quality genuine leather.
Bonded leather can be found in furniture, bookbinding, and various fashion accessories. Products that are most commonly constructed with different varieties of bonded leather are: books, diaries, art books, desk accessories, bags, belts, chairs, and sofas.
A more fragile paper-backed bonded leather is used to cover books and desk accessories. These bonded leathers may contain a smaller proportion of leather than used in the furniture industry, and have some leather exposed in the product's surface, hence there may be an actual leather smell.
Possible advantages of bonded leather include:
The actual leather content of bonded leather varies depending on the manufacturer and the quality level they are selling. In the home furnishings industry there is much debate and controversy over the ethics of using the term "bonded leather" to describe an upholstery product. Opinion in the leather industry says that calling a product "bonded leather" is "deceptive because it does not represent its true nature. It's a laminate or a composite, but it's not organic leather".
In 2011 the European Committee For Standardization published EN 15987:2011 'Leather - Terminology - Key definitions for the leather trade' to stop further confusion about bonded leather. The minimum amount of 50% in weight of dry leather is needed to use the term "bonded leather".
The US Federal Trade Commission recommends according to 16 C.F.R. Section 24: "For example: An industry product made of a composition material consisting of 60% shredded leather fibers may be described as: Bonded Leather Containing 60% Leather Fibers and 40% Non-leather Substances." The Federal Trade Commission has said that "The guidelines caution against misrepresentations about the leather content in products containing ground, reconstituted, or bonded leather, and state that such products, when they appear to be made of leather, should be accompanied by a disclosure as to the percentage of leather or other fiber content. The guidelines also state that these disclosures should be included in any product advertising that might otherwise mislead consumers as to the composition of the product."