Fiona is the editor of Plantpuree, a website that celebrates vegan living. With over 20 years in diet & fitness, fashion, and beauty, she brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to her work and writing on veganism.
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
It’s undeniable – MIRUM is a game-changing solution in the search for a truly vegan, plastic free sustainable alternative to leather.
There is no question that the fashion industry has a detrimental impact on our environment. (1) From the use of animal leather to plastic and synthetic materials, this industry creates immense pollution and landfill issues both during manufacturing – and after those items have been discarded; it is an incredibly serious contributor to climate change.
One of the ways brands and designers have used to pivot to more sustainable practices is to source materials from eco-friendly alternatives. However, while many brands promote plant-based vegan leathers like Pinatex and Desserto as vegan and sustainable heroes within their ranges -the truth is while they are a great option for animal lovers and a step in the right direction, they still contain plastics and synthetic materials making them less than ideal eco-friendly options.
To add further insult, few, if any, of these brands offer complete transparency about the use of plastic and other toxic materials in their vegan ranges and customers are left in the dark about the true nature of their eco-credentials.
Introducing MIRUM: the new, game-changing circular and recyclable material that looks and performs like leather but is 100% free of animal products and plastic.
Already being used by fashion brands, you can now purchase it for yourself. If you’re curious about what makes up this revolutionary vegan leather, how truly sustainable it is or want to know who trusts its quality – we have all the answers right here plus where to buy it!
Key Take Aways:
- MIRUM is the only commercially available plant-based, synthetic leather textile that is 100% plastic free.
- Unlike plastic-coated plant-based leathers – MIRUM® is naturally circular and can be safely composted back into the earth
- MIRUM is recyclable – scraps left over from manufacturing and old products can be repurposed into new MIRUM
- MIRUM contributes to many key United Nations Sustainable Development goals
Table of Contents
Most Vegan Leathers Are Plastic Based
The “ideal” cruelty free, sustainable leather material would be made from recycled waste sources, be biodegradable, recyclable, non-toxic during production, and completely free of harm to animals, humans and the environment. This lines up perfectly with the core ethics of ethical veganism and environmentalism – which is why promoting vegan leather appears to be such an attractive option.
Enter greenwashing – a tactic to appear eco-friendly, when in reality it only means that a vegan leather product was made without using any animal ingredients.
It turns out that many manufacturers and brands are using labels like “vegan leather” and “plant-based” to market materials with a variety of different compositions – many of which pose serious threats to the environment and which, in many cases, were historically known as pleather, faux, PVC, fake leather and more.
These companies often exaggerate the benefits of their materials and infer unfounded claims about their impact on sustainability.
For example, Pinatex, Vegea and Desserto are marketed as plant-based leathers – but not all of the material actually consists of plants. The composition of these leathers varies significantly, with some containing as little as 30% plant material and others up to 80%. This is largely because to meet performance standards, manufacturers often rely on petroleum-derived inputs like polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) alongside plastic resin, glue, and coating. (2)
Unfortunately, many of these manufacturers and brands do not disclose their use of plastics in their literature or on their websites.
Unless we see full transparency from brands and manufacturers, the challenge to us all lies in distinguishing between goods claiming to be sustainable vegan leather that actually 100% use bio-degradeable and non-toxic materials against those made using plastic-based polyurethane or PVC which are ultimately detrimental to our environment.
What that means is that as consumers we have to educate ourselves in order to make informed decisions on how and what we are buying.
So while at best, plant-based leather alternatives containing plastics are a step in the right direction, to date Mirum® is the only option that truly meets all the criteria of a circular and sustainable alternative to leather. In other words – a new, game-changing circular and recyclable material that looks and performs like leather but is 100% free of animal products and plastic.
Plant-based alternatives containing plastic may provide some progress but as of yet no material quite trumps the power of MIRUM when it comes down to creating an environmentally friendly leather alternative without compromising quality and animal welfare.
What is MIRUM Leather
Introducing MIRUM – a revolutionary line of plant-based leathers created by Natural Fibre Welding (NFW), already causing a stir in the world of fashion and cars. It’s bio-based, plastic free, can be produced at scale and an absolute game changer.
MIRUM is made from a blend of virgin and recycled plant fibers, and uses patented techniques to create a luxurious look and feel, without relying on plastic coatings. (3)
Years of research have gone into this breakthrough innovation, which results in products that can be recycled at the end of their lifespan and reenter production to create more Mirum®.
And the best part? MIRUM is an innovative, closed-loop system that eliminates waste by using all-natural ingredients. Not only are these components safe for our planet and not polluting – but they’ll actually be recycled back into the ecosystem!
And thanks to qualification from the USDA’s bio-preferred program, it proudly boasts 100% bio-based certification; illustrating its quality and commitment to sustainability. (4)
In fact, sustainable fashion brand James&Co have already announced that they will no longer use Pinatex and Desserto because of their plastic content and will focus solely on MIRUM. (5) They’ve already launched their handbag collection but keep your eyes peeled for the launch of their vegan leather jacket collection in April 2023. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see more announcements like this in the near future from other brands – such is the belief in Mirum’s potential.
Investments from both BMW and Stella McCartney attest to Mirum’s outstanding credentials and it’s potential to replace synthetics in fashion and automotive upholstery.
What Exactly Is In Mirum?
Free of any plastic components, MIRUM® is made using natural rubber and plant-based materials, oils, waxes and pigments as well as a fabric backing that comes entirely from nature.
That said, MIRUM is a line of materials as opposed to a single type of leather. This means the composition of Mirum leathers varies depending on the brand, type of product, performance requirements such as water-resistance and durability, and the look, color and feel of the finished materials.
Each MIRUM® material formula is one of a kind, but the commitment to relying solely on natural ingredients remains constant, and they use a variety of components such as biobased charcoal, coconut fibers, recycled denim, seaweed clay, cork powder or rice hulls to create color or additional visual appeal.
The really interesting component in MIRUM which sets it apart from other manufacturers of alternative leathers is its patented plant based curative. The use of a curative in the production of faux leather fabric helps to create a product that is more durable, long-lasting, and resistant to damage than traditional leather but is typically made from petroleum based chemicals. MIRUMs curative is entirely plant-based and sourced from renewable feedstocks.
In addition, MIRUM is not bonded with petrochemical glues. Rather, the fabric backing and MIRUM are either fused together during molding or MIRUM® uses natural rubber and plant oils for binding. (6)
How Sustainable Is Mirum?
A material is considered sustainable if it meets certain criteria that take into account its impact on the environment, society, and economy throughout its entire life cycle.
MIRUM® is much more sustainable than animal or synthetic leather to manufacture. Natural polymers and materials are used, so no tanning processes are required. Plus, a study by NFW has revealed that this product’s carbon footprint is significantly lower than other alternatives like animal and synthetic leather when compared side-by-side. (7)
On top of that, it takes very little water during production due to the lack of chemical dyes needed in its creation; natural raw materials are all that’s needed for MIRUM’S success! But even after use, you can rest assured knowing these products will return safely back into nature as they’re compostable – not to mention recyclable too.
Key Factors That Make MIRUM Sustainable:
- Renewable: Mirum uses ingredients from renewable resources, such as cork and natural rubber
- Recyclable: Mirum is sustainable because it can be reused and recycled into new Mirum, reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
- Compostable: Mirum can biodegrade, and break down into natural substances that can be safely absorbed into the soil.
- Low energy use: The natural fibers Mirum uses are far more sustainable, as they require less energy and resources to produce and use. This lowers greenhouse gas emissions and helps conserve scarce global resources for future generations.
- Non-toxic: Mirum is free of toxic chemicals or substances that can harm human health or the environment, helping to promote healthy living and a cleaner environment.
Carbon Footprint of Mirum
In 2022, Natural Fiber Welding published a comparison between MIRUM and various animal-based leathers, synthetic leathers and partly bio-based alternatives in terms of their climate impact.
Astonishingly enough, the findings revealed that producing just one square meter of this material leads to as little as 0.84kg (or 2.1 at most) carbon equivalent emissions (CO2e). This is comparable to driving 5 miles by car or washing/drying a single load of laundry! (8)
In comparison to other materials, the assessment reveals that one square meter of MIRUM has a CO2e impact: (9)
14 times smaller than chrome-tanned leather across its whole lifecycle
7.5 times smaller than synthetic leather’s influence
4 times less significant than partly bio-based PU leathers
Mirum stands out as the current leader against other plant-based leathers, offering the perfect balance between eco-friendly and fashionable.
MIRUM and The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help achieve a better future world by 2030. Mirum is able to contribute positively to at least six of this framework’s goals highlighting the potential for this material to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future.
- SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation: The production of traditional leather is known to be water-intensive and polluting. In contrast, Mirum uses less water and no chemical or toxic dyes – reducing water pollution and contributing to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
- SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: NFW collaborates directly with farmers in California and supports them as they switch to practices that are beneficial for the soil health and take away carbon from our atmosphere. (10) Even better – by promoting fair labor standards and aiding small-scale producers, jobs are generated while local economies grow
- SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: By using plants and forgoing plastics in its material science, NFW is leading the way towards more sustainable practices that will have long-term effects on land stewardship, labor transparency, and the fashion industry’s part in combating climate change. And with their commitment to a regenerative supply chain – they are spearheading innovation that sets the groundwork for tomorrow’s circular economy through materials science.
- SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production: By using renewable and biodegradable materials, reducing waste, and promoting ethical production practices, Mirum leather contributes to a more sustainable future.
- SDG 13 – Climate Action: The use of renewable materials and reduction of carbon emissions in the production process enables MIRUM to contribute to SDG 13, which aims to take urgent action to combat climate change.
- SDG 14 – Life Below Water: Traditional leather production can contribute to marine pollution through the disposal of chemical waste. MIRUM leather, which uses less water and biodegradable materials, can help reduce marine pollution by contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources.
What is Mirum Used For?
MIRUM® is an incredibly versatile material due to the use of a range of plant and minerals allowing for a variety of traits such as color, grain, thickness, texture and even scent. It is a very durable vegan leather that meets industry standards for a number of performance factors, such as tear strength and abrasion resistance.
This makes it perfect for a wide range of applications from fashion and footwear to interiors and automotive upholstery. Mirum is also increasingly being used in the production of bags and accessories, highlighting its potential as a versatile, sustainable material. Mirum has already been used in a number of high-profile collaborations with brands such as All-Birds and Camper.
In 2021, BMW Group took a significant step towards its sustainability goals by investing in NFW and revealing plans for creating a strategic alliance. They see having a scalable, cost-competitive alternative to leather with premium qualities as key to further advancing the decarbonization of the automotive industry and MIRUM ® is the perfect fit. (11)
Where Can You Buy Mirum Leather?
As MIRUM® rightly gains more publicity and attention, more and more brands are introducing this plastic free material into their ranges. In October 2022, NFW partnered with Veshin Factory to facilitate further growth of the product line; over ten companies have already incorporated MIRUM®, and by the end of 2023 many more will join them.
The following brands are already using MIRUM for handbags, footwear, sneakers and accessories:
- Scotch Soda
- Melina Bucher
- All Birds
- Unless Collective
- Brave Gentlemen
MIRUM Leather Bags
Scotch and Soda Studded Mirum Phone Bag
Bellroy Sling Mini
Modher Mirum Cross Body Bag
James&Co Mirum Crossbody Bag
MIRUM Leather Shoes
Camper Mirum Sneaker
Allbirds Mirum Pacer Shoe
Brave Gentleman Mirum Tassle Loafer
Bellroy Mirum Wallet
Brave Gentleman Mirum Faunus Wallet
Pangaia Wallet Card Holder
MIRUM is an exciting and truly sustainable alternative to traditional leather and plastic-based vegan leathers. Its unique composition and production process make it a safe and eco-friendly choice for both brands and consumers who are looking for ethical and sustainable materials. As more and more brands start to adopt MIRUM, we can hope to see a significant reduction in the use of harmful materials and a move towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.
- Bocken et al., 2014; Cocquyt et al., 2020; Ertekin & Atik, 2020; Jedrzejczak, 2020; Piscicelli et al., 2018; Vătămănescu et al., 2021. p 31