Promoting Better Environmental Performance of a Tannery Cluster

Asia-Pacific Environmental Innovation Strategies (APEIS)
Research on Innovative and Strategic Policy Options (RISPO)
Good Practices Inventory
Promoting Better Environmental Performance of a Tannery Cluster
through Shared Wastewater Treatment Facilities
Summary of the Practice
Keywords: Shared facilities, cluster, wastewater, tannery
Strategy: Improving environmental performance of small- and medium-sized enterprises
Environmental areas: Waste management, climate change
Critical instruments: Awareness/capacity building, Economic instruments, Organisational
arrangement, Regulatory instruments, Technologies
Country: Thailand
Location: Samutprakarn
Participants: Department of Industrial Works (DIW), Thai Tanning Industry Association
(TTIA), tanneries
Duration: 1950s–present
Funding: Self-funding
Industrial structure
The tanning industry in Thailand was first established over 60 years ago and is regarded as one
of the country’s oldest industries. In a nutshell, the tanning industry is the only industry in
Thailand to be located in a single industrial estate. According to the Department of Industrial
Works (DIW), there are 146 tanneries in Thailand, over 90 percent of which are SMEs, and it
employs over 150,000 workers.
The majority of tanning factories in Thailand are concentrated in the Samutprakarn tanning
industrial area, as a result of the government’s policy to relocate industrial factories from the
Klongteoy area in Bangkok, which was becoming too crowded. A few major tanneries in the
Klongteoy area decided to relocate their factories to the new sites at km-30 and km-34 of
Sukhumvit Road in Samutprakarn, which have since become major industrial tanning areas.
The relocation of the pioneer group in the 1950s initiated the tannery cluster in Thailand. The
Ministry of Industry (MOI) issued an announcement, on 29 April 1993, officially establishing
the cluster as the industrial tanning area.
The tanning industry plays an important role in adding value to hides and supplying leather to
the footwear and leather products industry. At present, the production capacity of the industry
is approximately 42.5 kilotonnes, or 18 million square metres of leather per year.
Production processes
The tanning process is generally comprised of three main stages: beamhouse, tanning, and
finishing. The tanning process is chemical and water intensive; thus, it produces a large
quantity of wastewater. Due to high water and chemical consumption, wastewater is the major
environmental problem.
Table 1. Characteristics of wastewater generated from the tanning process.
1. Beamhouse process
Wastewater characteristics
BOD, COD, salt, pesticides, flesh, hair, suspended solids, sulfate, ammonia,
base, chloride
2. Tanning process
2.1 chrome tanning
BOD, COD, salt, acid, chromium, suspended solids
2.2 vegetable tanning
BOD, COD, salt, acid, tannin, oils, suspended solids
3. Finishing process
BOD, COD, salt, chromium, oils, colors
Source: Table 4.8, Development of Economic Tools in Industrial Environmental Management, TEI.
Relocate tanneries and develop shared water treatment facilities, with the aim of improving
the environmental performance of the tanneries in terms of wastewater management and
pollution control.
Description of the activity:
Due to wastewater discharge containing high levels of organic and
inorganic substances, two central wastewater treatment plants,
occupying 8.5 hectares of land, were built for the mutual benefit of the
tannery factories in the area. One of the treatment plants is located at
km-30 along Sukhumvit Road, while the other one is situated at km-34.
These plants serve 130 tanneries in the area, with a total daily
discharge of 20,000 cubic metres (m3). Both of the treatment plants are
operated by the Thai Tanning Industry Association (TTIA), in which
the TTIA members share the initial investment and annual operating
costs. The investment cost was about U.S.$20 million, while monthly
electricity bills amount to more than $50,000. Wastewater treatment of
tannery effluents consists of a number of treatment processes, as
presented in the flowchart below.
Main sewage
Figure 1. TTIA logo.
Three aeration
ponds (aerobic
Three filtration
Drying bed
Critical Instruments
Operation of the wastewater treatment in the tannery cluster includes a number of critical
instruments: awareness/capacity building, organisational arrangements, regulatory
instruments, economic instruments, and technologies.
Developing environmental awareness among the tanneries
The tanneries have developed capacity building in terms of pollution management.
Moreover, they also increased environmental awareness through the implementation of
this programme.
Economic instruments
Shared operating costs
The main element that drives a company to adopt a cleaner production process is to
eliminate costs associated with inefficiencies within the existing process. In this case, top
management identified these costs through energy audits and benchmarking. Accordingly,
it can be seen that these are effective tools for an organisation to use in order to assess
actual performance, which may finally lead to performance improvement as a result of
identifying inefficiencies and room for improvement in business activities.
Organisational arrangements
Establishing the Thai Tanning Industrial Association
The Thai Tanning Industrial Association (TTIA) was established as a result of the
tannery cluster development after the relocation. The main reason contributing to the
success of the TTIA establishment was the close relationship among the tanneries; thus,
they have developed mutual trust, which helped in stimulating collaboration among them.
The association plays an important role in running the wastewater treatment plants,
including management and operation monitoring. The association committee is elected
from among the members, and the election takes place every four years. This provides an
opportunity for the members to participate equally in the association and avoid a
monopoly of decision-making power.
Regulatory instruments
Governmental policy on industrial relocation
The government’s policy to relocate industrial factories was the main reason that brought
about the tannery cluster development in Samutprakarn. This is a clear illustration of how
regulatory instruments affect cluster development. Government regulation can trigger
development, but success also depends on other factors such as incentives, supporting
measures, and relationships between industrial players.
Installation of central treatment plants
Wastewater treatment plants that use an aerobic digestion process effectively treat the
wastewater discharged from the tanning process, which meets the effluent standards set
by the government. The treatment process has been continuously improved, so as to be
suitable for the increasing wastewater load in order to comply with the legislative
The wastewater treatment plants assist in reducing pollution loading from the tanneries in
the area. According to a study by the Department of Industrial Works, the properties of
wastewater discharges have significantly improved, as follows.
Table 2. Properties of tannery wastewater discharge.
Parameter concentration (min.-max.)
Suspended solids
Source: Table 4.9, Development of Economic Tools in Industrial Environmental Management, TEI.
Lessons Learned
The operation of the TTIA is a good illustration of effective management of shared waste
treatment facilities, which can be applied to other industrial clusters.
Cluster development is not a once-off implementation; on the other hand, it needs a
fundamental establishment of industrial players. This can be led by strengthening regulatory
instruments and encouraging strong interrelationships between the industrial players.
Shared facilities can help in increasing overall economic efficiency through sharing of
costs, personnel, and other associated resources.
Shared facilities required systematic management in order to provide equity and
accessibility to all users.
Potential for Application
Applying shared waste treatment facilities at the cluster level requires large investment and
resources. Moreover, successful operation also requires strong commitment from all users;
therefore, the management of the facilities must provide equity to all members, in order to
share benefits and costs equally so as to create mutual interest and trust among the members.
Without this factor, this practice would be difficult to achieve.
Ms.Vilai Kosontrakool
Thai Tanning Industry Association
226 Moo 1 Sukhumvit Road (KM30)
Taiban Muang Samutprakarn
Thailand 10280
Tel (662) 703-9009-10
Fax (662) 703-8431
Web site:
E-mail: [email protected]
Case reviewer: Tittaya Waranusantikule, Research Associate, Thailand Environment Institute
(TEI), [email protected]
Information date: 10 October 2003