The pineapple leaf fibers used in pineapple leather come from the Philippines, where 10% of the country’s agricultural exports come from pineapples. The pineapple fruit is sold while the leaves are generally treated as waste.
These leaves then become one of the raw materials used in pineapple leather. It takes approximately 480 pineapple leaves to produce 1 square meter of pineapple leather. With an abundant supply of leaves, Philippine farmers benefit by producing less waste while also having the ability to sell more of their crops for industrial consumption and use.
A four step process is followed to make pineapple leather:
Step 1: Decortication
The first step in the production of pineapple leather begins by breaking the pineapple leaves down and extracting the long fibers that make them up. These fibers will form the base of the pineapple leather mesh material. The process of removing the fibers is referred to as “decortication”. This is generally performed at the local farm or plantation where the leaves are grown and sourced from.
Step 2: Degumming
Once they’ve been decortified, the pineapple leaf fibers still have some sticky, or gummy, residue on their surface. It’s important to remove this so the fibers can be turned into the Pinatex mesh that will become the final material. Degumming the fibers removes the sticky surface substance, and prepares the fibers for the next step in the process.
Step 3: Meshing
After the fibers have been degummed, they’re ready to be turned into the more final-structure pineapple leather material. This is called meshing. During this step, the long pineapple leaf fibers are processed into a non-woven mesh structure. This will form the base of the material.
Step 4: Finishing
Once processed, the material is transported to Spain where a unique finish is applied. This finishing process results in the final product being much more “leather-like”. It gives it the final colours, look, feel, and also a protective surface that help make pineapple leather water and abrasion resistant. The finish applied can result in the surface looking very similar to various grain patterns of natural leather. Finishes are also available that appear metallic and smooth.
Some of the key properties of pineapple leather include:
- Heat Resistant
- Water Resistant