fur-coat-recycling

Fur is naturally

Fur is naturally resilient and long-lasting. Well cared-for, a fur garment will remain functional and beautiful for many, many years – far longer that any other clothing material. In fact, fur coats are one of the few clothing items that are often passed down and used by two or even three generations.

Unlike other textiles, fur garments can also be re-cut and restyled (“remodeled”) as fashions change. Your old fur coat can even be “recycled” to make bags, pillows, throws or other home accessories.

At a time when the true ecological cost of “cheap”, mass-produced, disposable “fast-fashion” is just beginning to be calculated – think millions of tons of poor-quality fibers and short-life garments filling up landfills – the naturally durable and recyclable qualities of fur makes more sense than ever!

Real fur is an organic material. « Faux fur » (fake fur) and most synthetics are made from petrochemicals. Like other plastics, these materials do not break down easily and will remain in landfills for centuries.  The “dressing”process (tanning) helps to preserve the pelts for some time, but after many years of use they will eventually dry out and begin to deteriorate (i.e., biodegrade), returning to nature. Old fur apparel can even be composted for your garden!

See also, in Biodegradable and Sustainable Fibers, Edited by R.S. Blackburn: 


“While vegetable (plant-based) and animal fibers are fully biodegradable, mineral fibers are not.” (“Biodegradable Natural Fiber Composites,” by A.N. Netravalli, Cornell University, pg. 274.) 

And: “Of even more concern is the ability of (synthetic) polymeric fibres to remain unchanged in the environment as polymers do not degrade very readily, which has exacerbated the already existing ecological and environmental problems of waste building; the volume in waste disposal and landfill is very high. (R.S. Blackburn, Page xv.) 

And: “…natural fibers like wool and cotton are broken down through biotic process. Microorganisms have evolved enzymes that attack key bonds in these natural polymers, thereby releasing monomers that can be used as carbon and energy sources for microbial growth. In contrast, microorganisms lack enzymes to break down many synthetic fibers, thus these materials persist and accumulate in the environment. “Microbial Processes in the Degradation of Fibers”, P.M. Fedorak, University of Alberta, pg.1.The processing and dyeing of any clothing material must be carefully regulated to protect the environment. Again, nothing is 100% “green”. Fur tanning (“dressing”) and coloring, however, are relatively benign, as they must be, to preserve fur hairs and follicles. (By contrast, in leather tanning the hair is intentionally removed from the hide.)

The main chemicals used to “dress” fur pelts are table salt, water, alum salts, soda ash, sawdust, cornstarch, lanolin and other natural ingredients. Small quantities of formaldehyde can be used to protect fur follicles during dressing or dyeing, and gentle acids (e.g., acetic acid, which is vinegar) activate the tanning process, but local environmental protection controls ensure that there are no harmful effluents. Excess fats are skimmed and even PH levels must be neutralized before wastewater is released. And because furs are available in an extraordinary range of natural colours, only a small proportion are dyed.

By contrast, up to one gallon of petroleum – a non-renewable resource – is needed to produce three synthetic jackets. The production of synthetic fibers also involves chemical reactions at high temperatures, producing potentially harmful substances.

According to R.S. Blackburn (Biodegradable and Sustainable Fibers, pg xv): “The main problems with synthetic polymers are that they are non-degradable and non-renewable… Oil and petroleum are non-renewable (non-sustainable) resources and at the current rate of consumption, these fossil fuels are only expected to last for another 50-60 years… An even more important problem with the use of fossil energy is the huge translocation of carbon from the ground into the atmosphere accompanied by emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides as well as all kinds of hydrocarbons, and heavy metals. Fossil fuels are also the dominant global source of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG)’’Fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. That means we only use part of what nature produces each year without depleting wildlife populations or damage the natural habitat s that sustain them. The goal is to maintain long-term ecological balance.

In nature, each plant and animal species generally produces more offspring than the land can support to maturity. Like other species, we live by making use of part of this surplus that nature creates. We also have a responsibility to protect the wilderness areas that provide these valuable resources. Modern conservationists define this as the “sustainable use” of renewable resources.


Synthetics, by contrast, are generally made from petroleum (a non-renewable resource), which is NOT consistent with the sustainable use of our environment. The production, transportation and disposal of petrochemicals can cause environmental problems.

Worldwide, the fur industry is an excellent example of an industry based on sustainable use. All the furs used by the trade are abundant and absolutely no endangered species are used. This is assured by strict provincial/state, national and international regulations. In the Canadian fur trade, government wildlife officials and biologists ensure responsible use by establishing controlled hunting and trapping, harvest quotas, licensing, and training courses for trappers. Strict government regulations ensure that these quotas and seasons are respected.
Thanks to modern wildlife management and trapping regulations, there are as many beavers and muskrats in North America now as when the Europeans first arrived in the continent. Raccoons, coyotes and foxes are more abundant than ever.