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APIC takes to national newspaper to defend Alcanena leather sector

Portugal’s main leather industry body, APIC, has published an article in a national newspaper to defend the industry against negative reports that have appeared in recent weeks.

Earlier this year, people living in Alcanena, the town with the biggest cluster of tanneries in Portugal, complained of unpleasant odours and the local authorities blamed the leather industry.

An article signed by APIC president, Nuno Carvalho, appeared in national newspaper O Expresso on November 30 defending the industry against these accusations. The organisation said odour had been an issue in 2017, after which it called for investment in new installations in the wastewater treatment set-up in Alcanena, including new deodorising technology at strategic points along the network.

In the article, APIC said it had worked throughout 2018 to put all relevant local government contacts in touch with industry experts to make these changes, warning that a lack of action could result in “a calamity” for the town and for its leather industry.

The article made it clear that the local authority, whose responsibility it was to invest in these new measures, failed to take the necessary action. It said: “Our efforts were in vain. The local authorities were determined to make their own decisions about what to do.”

This resulted in the creation of Aquanena, a new, local-authority-run management company for waste management. When the 2019 odour issues arose, Aquanena took none of the blame and pointed the finger instead at the town’s leather manufacturers. 

APIC said in the article that local people saw tankers moving around Alcanena at the time of the incident. It said these vehicles were dirty and smelled badly. “Could it be,” APIC asked, “that waste from outside the area was brought into Alcanena and dumped at a disused factory or put into the waste system at one of the points in the network?”

It said, however, that APIC wants to be part of the solution to this dispute and has set up a new technical working group that will sit down with all parties concerned to draw up a new strategy for managing waste.

There are currently 60 tanneries and finished leather products factories in Alcanena. The tanners there produce 150,000 square-feet of leather per year. In all, the town’s leather cluster comprises 131 companies that employ a combined total of 3,500 workers. They have a combined annual turnover of €400 million.

These figures mean the leather industry is responsible for 68% of the jobs in Alcanena and contributes 30% of the town’s gross domestic product.

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