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Alkaliphilic Enzymes and Their Application in Novel Leather Processing Technology for Next-Generation Tanneries

  • Wycliffe C. Wanyonyi
  • Francis J. MulaaEmail author
Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series


Leather manufacturing involves conversion of raw skin and hides into leather (stable material) through series of mechanical and chemical operations. The leather industry has attracted public outcry due to severe environmental degradation, pollution and health and safety risks. Currently the industry faces serious sustainability challenge due to extensive use of toxic chemicals and generation of hazardous waste. This chapter describes the polluting chemicals consumed in different stages of conventional leather processing and the nature of waste generated. In order to overcome the hazards caused by toxic chemicals in tanneries and protect the environment, enzymes have been identified as a realistic alternate for chemicals used in beam house operation and waste management. Alkaline active proteases of alkaliphiles offer advantages over the use of conventional chemical catalysts for numerous reasons, for example, they exhibit high catalytic activity and high degree of substrate specificity, can be produced in large amounts and are economically viable. This is because the enzymes of these alkaliphiles are capable of catalysing reactions at the extremes of pH, temperature and salinity of leather-manufacturing processes.

The chapter describes how alkaliphilic enzyme can effectively be used in soaking, dehairing, bating and degreasing operations to prevent waste generation, help in recovery of valuable by-products, reduce cost and increase leather quality. It is worth noting that protease has the capability to replace sodium sulphide in the dehairing process. In addition, alkaline proteases have shown remarkable ability in bioremediation of waste generated during the industrial processes. Intensive efforts are being directed towards chemical-based industries to use viable clean technology in their operation to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Similarly, leather industry should adopt the use of eco-friendly reagents such as enzymes to achieve long-term sustainability and clean environment and avert health hazards. Application of enzyme technology in clean leather processing strongly depends on legislation, political will and allocation of financial resources in research, development and implementation of this potentially powerful technology.

Graphical Abstract


Alkaline active protease Biodegradation and sustainability Clean environment Leather manufacturing Pollution 



Biological oxygen demand


Chemical oxygen demand


Chrome-tanned leather shavings


Docosahexaenoic acids


Docosapentaenoic acid


Enzyme commission




Fish protein hydrolysate


Generally recognized as safe


Posttranslational modification


Polyunsaturated fatty acids




Total dissolved solids


Wax esters


Wax ester synthase


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical SciencesSchool of Science and Technology, University of KabiangaKerichoKenya
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryCollege of Health Sciences, University of NairobiNairobiKenya

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