Muirhead FreeTAN® - The Natural Choice for Performance.

Tanning is perhaps the most crucial part of leather production. It is the process by which our locally sourced raw hides are treated in drums to transform them into Muirhead’s high-performance leather material. 

As the market leader in sustainability, we’ve made it our mission to future-proof our tanning process, ensuring we can deliver sustainable leather solutions without greenwashing or compromising on technical performance. 

Introducing Muirhead FreeTAN® with free FR technology – the most sustainable aviation leather available today. 

For centuries, our ancestors have used natural materials like tannins, extracted from leaves and bark, to tan leather. They also used simple finishes made with eggs and milk. However, these traditional methods were not suitable for producing the high-quality leathers we need today. 

The demand for consistency and high technical performance from industries such as aviation ushered in a new era in leather production. Today, most of the leather produced around the world is tanned with chrome salts – a practice that has endured for 150 years. 

However, while chrome is known for creating the softest, lightest and most versatile leather available today, we recognised that the sustainable leather of tomorrow must be free of chrome salts, heavy metals, and aldehyde. 

Thus, a third era of leather tanning was born.  

What have we done? 

For over two decades, we have invested heavily in new initiatives to develop future-proof tanning systems that deliver unparalleled consistency and high technical excellence without relying on chrome salts and glutaraldehyde. 

In a pioneering move, we have now fully replaced our existing tanning chemistry with compostable technology to increase the bio-based renewable carbon content of our leather to 90% and above.  

This move is in line with the aviation industry’s sustainability expectations and market trends, as we are committed to eliminating the use of fossil fuels, oil-based elements, and heavy metals from all our operations. 

The resulting product, FreeTAN® with free FR technology, is completely free from heavy metals, chrome, and glutaraldehyde. This not only reduces its environmental impact but also ensures the product meets customers’ exacting performance standards 

Meanwhile, our free FR technology is a non-toxic, halogen-free, fire-retardant treatment that ensures aviation leather meets the industry’s strict safety standards without harming human health or the environment.  

Our new leather technology empowers operators to significantly reduce their carbon impact, all while providing a luxurious, comfortable, and safe flying experience with Muirhead’s most sustainable aviation leather.  

A technological breakthrough  

We are extremely passionate about creating innovative products that can make a genuinely positive impact on the aviation industry and the environment. 

Besides supporting our customers on their sustainability journey, Muirhead FreeTAN® also maintains our status as the leading flame-retardant leather in the industry. The product regularly outperforms the industry standard by over 5 seconds in the Vertical Burn test. 

Our free FR technology, refined over the years through rigorous testing and development, is devoid of harmful substances including heavy metals, halogen, bromine, fluorocarbon, and bio-accumulative chemicals.  

Why did we introduce FreeTAN®? 

Our aviation customers’ needs are at the core of our values. This is why we worked with marketing intelligence agency Stylus to ensure that we provide the best possible solutions. 

We recognised the importance of considering environmental factors during the initial design stage for sustainable production, and that it is our responsibility to find the most efficient and eco-friendly way to dispose of a product at the end of its useful life. 

High bio-content materials are gaining prominence as a key factor in the product development process. They can be used to create products that are biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable, which helps reduce the amount of waste they generate. 

(Stylus Trends Intelligence, May 2023) 

We knew that by incorporating high bio-content materials into the product design process, we can create products that are not only functional and aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally responsible. 

To do so, however, we had to evaluate the impact of manufacturing, product durability, reusability, and waste reduction. We took into account the entire supply chain, from sourcing to the end of the product life cycle, as well as the origin and journey of each component that comprises the final product. 

Myles Hobbs, Aviation Director EMEA and The Americas at Muirhead, saysMuirhead’s pioneering FreeTAN® technology was developed to meet the aviation industry’s growing need for real leather solutions that further optimise and improve environmental sustainability. 

 “It enables us to enhance the biodegradability and compostability properties of our products, all without compromising on technical performance.  

How does FreeTAN® benefit the aviation industry? 

We understand that reducing carbon emissions and promoting eco-friendliness are essential goals for the aviation industry. That’s why our product innovation strategy focuses on providing sustainable and renewable products that can genuinely transform the industry while avoiding greenwashing. 

Muirhead already offers the world’s lowest-carbon aviation leather, and we are incredibly proud of it. It is produced using a patented circular manufacturing process that incorporates energy recovery, water reuse, renewable energy, and locally sourced materials. 

All our hides can be traced back to the farms, which practice the highest animal welfare standards and zero deforestation. In addition, we offer a unique take-back scheme for end-of-life leather as we strongly believe in responsible stewardship of our planet.

Our LCA of 8kg CO₂e/m² is the lowest in the world. It has been accredited by BSI and verified to ISO14016 using primary data. The data was independently created by specialist consultants according to ISO14040 and ISO14044 using Sector Guidance. 

This, together with our new tanning technology, makes Muirhead FreeTAN® with free FR a leader in the supply of the lowest-carbon aviation leather available today.

FreeTAN® is a result of our commitment to increasing the biodegradability and composability properties of our aviation products. We have successfully achieved this by increasing the bio-content of our leather and removing as many fossil-fuel-oil-derived components and heavy metals as possible without compromising on technical excellence. 

Operators and manufacturers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly solutions to reduce their environmental impact. By providing chrome and heavy metal-free leather seat covers, we can cater to this demand and help the industry become more environmentally sustainable. 

Our environment-friendly covers may enhance the overall image of the airline, attracting a larger customer base and more revenue. Meanwhile, investing in sustainable materials can future-proof the business and mitigate potential compliance risks due to increasingly stringent environmental regulations and standards. 

Our flame-retardant technology, being heavy metal- and halogen-free, contributes to safety and reduced chemical waste, leading to long-term cost savings.  

Finally, our new high-performance aviation leather meets the traceability requirements of the upcoming EU Deforestation Regulations, which will require full traceability of all bovine raw material and leather exported from or placed on the market in the EU, starting from 30 December 2024. 

This is a significant milestone for us, and so we are proud to be at the forefront of sustainable and responsible aviation leather manufacturing.  

How does FreeTAN® benefit passengers? 

As our planet faces unprecedented environmental challenges, we’ve seen a rise in demand for eco-friendly travel. At Muirhead, we understand the significance of this demand and are committed to making a difference. 

Every small step counts towards creating a more sustainable future. That’s why we prioritise the use of our lowest carbon, chrome- and heavy metal-free leather to offer passengers a guilt-free travel experience. 

Our genuine leather seats not only offer air travellers comfort but also a sense of pride as they actively contribute to a sustainable future. 

We understand that comfort is key when it comes to travel, and that’s why we put our products through robust testing. Unlike other textile industries, we don’t just test our materials on new samples. Instead, we simulate ageing by exposing our material samples to a range of temperature and humidity conditions. This way, we can guarantee that our products remain comfortable for 10-12 years despite daily wear and tear.  

Future-proof leather products 

These ground-breaking technologies are a vital next step in our journey to increase the bio-based renewable carbon content of our leather to 90% and above,” adds Stephen Hems, Muirhead’s Innovation (Technologist) Manager. 

“However, this marks just the beginning. The leather of the future is 100% bio-based, entirely chrome-free, heavy metal-free, aldehyde-free and fully biodegradable.” 

Muirhead’s FreeTAN is an aviation leather known for its sustainable production process and free FR technology. It helps operators reduce their carbon footprint while ensuring long-lasting passenger comfort. FreeTAN is one of the most environmentally sustainable aviation leathers available, meeting the strictest regulations. 

Visitors to Booth 6E95 at AIX 2024 can learn more about Muirhead’s industry-leading aviation product processes and innovations. 

We invite you to watch our video, in which our experts behind this cutting-edge innovation tell their story about the developments of our new FreeTAN® and free FR technology.