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Nadia Somai Boubaker talks about the leather industry

The expert Nadia Somai Boubaker, from the National Centre of Leather and Shoe in Tunisia explains to SwitchMed how is possible to improve the competitiveness of the leather sector. Discover now resource-efficiency and cleaner technology measures implemented in industrial companies in Tunisia and learn how your company can become more sustainable.

Please describe your organisation

The MED TEST II project is implemented in Tunisia by a consortium of five sectorial technical centres: the National Centre of Leather and Shoe (CNCC), the Technical Centre of Chemistry (CTC), the Technical Centre of Textile (CETTEX), the Technical Centre of Mechanical and Electric Industries (CETIME) and the Technical Centre of Agrifood (CTAA). The management of the project is entrusted to the National Centre of Leather and Shoe (CNCC).

The CNCC is an institution of public economic interest placed under the the Ministry of Industry of Tunisia. The activities of the CNCC covers all the branches of the leather industries which are the raw hides, tannery, footwear, leather goods and garments, leather clothing and the related industries. The main goal of CNCC is to provide training, advice and technical assistance to the industrial and handcraft leather firms in terms of creativity, quality, environment, industrial organization, productivity improvement.


Can you tell us about yourself? 

I’m Ms Nadia Somai Boubaker, I have a Master degree in natural sciences from “Mathematical physical and Natural Sciences University”. I’m working in CNCC since 2005 as engineer in the Sustainable Development and Cooperation Department, in which I am responsible of waste water treatment plants and waste water analysis in the framework of Life Third Countries project. I am a consultant on environment, Management Systems (ISO 14001, ISO 26000, SA 8000, Innovation Management System), MED TEST tool, trainer in REACh European law, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), leather footwear Ecolabel, best Environmental practices, Eco-design and Life Cycle Analysis, innovation Management System and other themes related to environment. I coordinated several European projects such as Life Third Countries project (2005-2007), Tunisian Clean Production Project (UNIDO and SECO-2010-2014), Sohealthy project (7thFP)…and actually I am the national coordinator of the MED TEST II project in Tunisia.


The effectiveness of the TEST approach has been demonstrated in 15 participating companies through the implementation of a large number of resource-efficiency measures and cleaner technology investments. Can you please tell us some of the measures that were identified and have already been implemented?

There are any measures that have been implemented already:

-       The recovery of water from the final CIP machine and washing PET bottles in the soft drink industry.

-       PET bottle blow moulding by transferring the compressed air surplus to the compressors in the soft drink industry.

-       Optimization NH3 chillers for the crystallization of the margarine.

-       The recovery of proteins and fat from splits and its valorisation in the leather finishing.

-       Reducing salt by drumming of salted hides and skins before soaking.

-       Reducing energy consumption by thermal insulation of pipelines from the boiler.

-       Replacement of salt by cold storage of hides.

-       Heat exchanger hot / cold water mercerization textile process.

-       Recovery of sodium hydroxide at mercerization textile process.

-       Recovery of wash rinse water in the jeans stonewashing process.


Second to oil, fashion and textiles is the most polluting industry in the world. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans. Up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes.  MEGASTONE is specialized in jeans bleaching, dye-works and special effects treatments. It has a washing capacity of 12,000 pieces a day and exports 100% of its production. How did MEGASTONE become more sustainable after joining the programme?

Following the implementation of the TEST approach in MEGASTONE, the company was able to revise its environmental policy and aspect register, and to integrate cleaner production approach and best practices.The company is striving to make use of more environmentally friendly chemicals, in order to become certified Oeko-Tex Standard 100.Thanks to the project, the energy costs have been reduced by 30% by installing an economizer at the boiler. The costs of water and chemicals have fallen off respectively by 10% and 12%.


The leather sector is one of the most important economic sectors in Tunisia. However, the industrial processes involved in leather production use high quantities of water and chemicals. What can be done in order to contribute to the sustainable development and the improvement of the competitiveness of the leather sector? What is CNCC doing about this?

We contribute to the sustainable development and the improvement of the competitiveness of the leather sector in Tunisia by focusing our work in the minimization of the waste upstream and downstream of the manufacturing process, introducing the environmental best practices and the best available technologies in leather sector and adopting cleaner technology method. We try also to be more competitive at the international scale by complying with REACh rules, avoiding hazardous and/or banned substances (Substances of Very High Concern, SVHC) using friendly environmentally chemicals while ensuring competitive prices. Actually, CNCC is strongly conscious and aware of the problem caused by pollution generated by tanneries. It has competent technical staff able to develop researches and provide advice to tanneries in the field of upstream and downstream pollution minimization. It is well equipped by environmental laboratory for analysing wastes and wastewater and also two treatment waste water pilot plants which can allow demonstrating waste water treatment.


Water is becoming more and more a scarce and valuable resource as population and consumption rise. Please can you explain to us two examples of water savings?

As you know, water is essential for life and saving it is the best way to preserve life on earth. So we must save it and to do this, there many ways at home, in industry, in agriculture…

In industry, I think that the best way to save water is by recycling and re-using water in the similar or another process but it depends on the identification of water reuse opportunities, the determination of the minimum water quality needed for the given use, identification of wastewater sources that satisfy the water quality requirements.

Also, installing sub-meters at each production line makes us avoid leaks and detect it timely.