Bonded leather or reconstituted leather is a term used for a popular upholstery material, which uses natural leather leftovers that are bonded back into larger pieces. The base upon which the reconstituted leather is applied is a strong fiber, and the mix can have varying degrees of organic leather - between 100% to 60% while the rest is polyurethane. The larger hides have the appearance and the smell of organic leather, but at reduced cost and with less wastage compared to organic grown leather. Bonded leather can be found in furniture, bookbinding, and various fashion accessories. Examples of products that are most commonly constructed with different varieties of "bonded leather" are: books, diaries, art books, desk accessories, bags, belts, chairs, and sofas.
The actual leather content of bonded leather varies depending on the manufacturer and the quality level they are selling. In the home furnishings industry there is much debate and controversy over the ethics of using the term "bonded leather" to describe an upholstery product. Opinion in the leather industry says that calling a product "bonded leather" is "deceptive because it does not represent its true nature. It's a laminate or a composite, but it's not organic leather".
A more fragile paper-backed bonded leather is used to cover books and desk accessories. These bonded leathers may contain a smaller proportion of leather than used in the furniture industry and have some leather content in the product's surface, hence there may be an actual leather smell.
In 2011 the European Committee For Standardization published EN 15987:2011 'Leather - Terminology - Key definitions for the leather trade' to stop further confusion about bonded leather. The minimum amount of 50% in weight of dry leather is needed to use the term 'bonded leather'. The Federal Trade Commission, Washington, USA recommends according to 16 C.F.R. Section 24: "For example: An industry product made of a composition material consisting of 60% shredded leather fibers may be described as: Bonded Leather Containing 60% Leather Fibers and 40% Non-leather Substances.
Suggested advantages of bonded leather include:
Environmentally friendly – reuses leftover leather without extra farming
Product consistency – no natural defects and minimal batch to batch variation
High cutting yield – cost efficient and reduces landfill waste
High durability and excellent flame retardancy
Extensive design options – from leather effects to bold geometric designs
Significant fuel savings – on transport applications