Researchers in the US have used a washing powder ingredient to turn waste leather into a high-value protein used in the manufacture of adhesives and packaging films. Agricultural Research Service scientists used alkaline protease to break leather shavings into low value protein hydrolysate that can be used in fertilisers. By modifying the process the researchers found they could produce a high-value grade of gelatine protein equal in quality to commercially-produced gelatine. The protein is ideal for making adhesives, industrial packaging films and encapsulating agents for agricultural chemicals, they said. The tanning industry only converts 50 per cent of cattle hides into leather. The missing half is shaved off to give leather a uniform thickness. Each year, about 60,000tonnes of these waste shavings are dumped in landfill sites. The US agriculture secretary Dan Glickman, announcing the research recently, said, "This is an innovative process that puts to good use a waste product that is currently hauled off to landfills at a price.' The discovery, which has already been patented, would prove extremely beneficial for both the environment and economy, Glickman said.