Brazil has one of the largest herds of cattle in the world, with more than 170 million heads. Over 400 farms have exported more than 2,875 ton (in 1997) of leather to Europe. The wet blue tanning process uses chemicals such as chromium compounds and produces liquid wastes that must be treated by physico-chemical and biological systems. About 15,000 ton per month of dewatering sludge with 24% solids content is disposed of into landfills. During the process, pre-tanned skins (wet blue leather) are shaved to the desired thickness and the shavings, like sludge, are among the wastes that must have special attention. The organic content and chromium concentration are high. About 12% of the leather production from cattle hides are shavings, and its chromium concentration ranges from 3.5 to 5.5% of dry matter. The Environmentally friendly leather project, a co-operation between Brazilian and German tanneries, universities and technical schools, is looking for process optimisation, waste minimisation and adequate treatment for solid and liquid wastes from the leather industry. This work presents results of Low Temperature Conversion of chrome-containing sludge and shavings in a laboratory batch reactor, offering a solution for these hazardous wastes, recovering the energy content and transforming metals in insoluble sulphides.

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