IULTCS Merit Awardee`s Words of Acceptance

2019 IULTCS Merit Awardee, Jakov Buljan, With Evocative and Thoughtful Words of Acceptance

Jakov Buljan, 2019 IULTCS Merit Awardee

When Jakov Buljan, the 2019 IULTCS Merit Awardee for Excellence in the Leather Industry, was called up on stage during the Opening Ceremony on the eve of the XXXV IULTCS International Congress, held in Dresden/Germany, June 25-28, 2019, he left the audience with some thoughtful and evocative Words of Acceptance, we like to share with you:

"I am greatly honoured and humbled for being added to the list of recipients of this prestigious IULTCS Award and I very much appreciate receiving this recognition at this very special occasion, in Dresden, in the town of not only a turbulent history but also a place of science, education, innovation and culture.

At the very early stage of my career, a university mate shocked by meeting me in a poor developing country setting up a joint venture tannery asked me in confidence whether my assignment was a punishment for some political sin, something common in a communist country.

He could not believe that I liked it and in a way preferred it over some prestigious branches of the chemical industry.

Indeed, as Robert Higham elaborated it in detail (in the last century) in nearly all cultures, all over the world, tanning was associated with the lowest strata of the society. Paradoxically, while tanning was very important, tanners remained outcasts.  Actually, sometimes it seems that battling paradoxes and misperceptions will stay tanner’s destiny for many years to come.


Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer (Congress President), Jakov Buljan (2019 IULTCS Merit Awardee) and Thomas Yu (IULTCS President)

No, on the whole, we tanners do not pollute, we actually prevent pollution

Our throats are hoarse repeating:

  • As long as people eat meat and consume milk there will be hides and skins

  • No, on the whole, we tanners do not pollute, we actually prevent pollution

  • There is no cleaner leather processing technology that makes end-of-pipe treatment superfluous

  • No, chrome-free does not imply better environmental performance, very often opposite is the case.However, it is hard to defend that view when research papers and advertisements of suppliers of specialty chemicals again and again start with that premise. Yes, due to pressures by important buyers the leather industry has to look for alternatives but this does mean that that technically incorrect view should be endorsed. We should not shoot ourselves in the foot.

  • Incidentally,I am of the view that in arid regions effluent salinity is by far the most challenging issue to the tanning industry in comparison with which chrome management is almost irrelevant. I should also think that the LWG Protocol could reflect it even better. Similarly, let me use this opportunity to plead that OSH be reintroduced as IUE item

  • A modern tannery is a pleasant place to work. Dirt & malodour are signs of poor management.(I am still proud that at one occasion the project team made a point of launching the fully upgraded effluent treatment plant with reception and snacks in the middle of that very effluent treatment plant).

Working for an organization from the UN system had both advantages (impartiality, no vested interests!) and challenges. The latter are very succinctly described in one of the congratulatory messages I received and I am taking the liberty to quote:

"And not just the technology. You had difficult people to manage: people who knew little, people who “knew too much” the unwilling, bureaucratic matters, huge egos to massage, funding issues, and having to provide a result."

Jakov Buljan giving thoughtful and evocative Words of Acceptance

...but on the whole, it has been a blessing.

Yet, I was very fortunate to be part of a very unique UNIDO Leather Unit, including its founder M. Nestvold, fortunate in building teams for various projects as well as learning about waste water treatment from people like David Winters, Giuseppe Clonfero or Michel Aloy. It was a great privilege to interact with patriarchs and stalwarts of the leather science and industry such as prof. Heidemann, Dr Sykes, W. Frendrup or the man who gave the initial impetus to promoting the Indian leather industry abroad, a great businessman, Nagappa Chettiar.

Having completed my part in the relay race, I derive satisfaction from believing that working together with other colleagues. I have also somewhat contributed to the fact that grey spots on the world map where categories like BOD, COD, TDS, activated sludge, oxidation ditch, chrome recycling, hydrogen sulphide meter etc. in the local tanning community were unknown, never heard of, have been virtually erased.

Back to my colleague shocked by finding me in a tannery. Now, after many years I can firmly state: my life with leather had its peaks and downs, successes and disappointments but on the whole, it has been a blessing. 

Once again, thank you very much indeed."

Thank You, Jakov Buljan, for your encouraging and thoughtful words! (Editor´s Note)