A leather-like material made of crab shells and coffee grounds

Called Tômtex, the biomaterial is created from shell seafood waste and coffee grounds, a sustainable alternative instead of faux and animal leather. 

Uyen Tran, the designer of the material, grew up in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam, where a lot of leather is created. Widely used in various fields of design, the manufacturing process causes a lot of pollution.

Annually, 8 million tonnes of waste seafood shells and 18 million tonnes of coffee grounds are generated annually worldwide. Killing two, or rather three, birds with one stone, Tran developed a leather alternative made from seafood shells and coffee grounds.

The seafood waste consists of shrimp, crab and lobster shells as well as fish scales, from which the biopolymer chitin is extracted. The coffee grounds come from Tran’s own kitchen and local cafés.

The mixture is dyed using natural pigments such as charcoal, coffee and ochre to create a variety of colour options.

The material is poured in a mould and air-dried for two days to create a leather-like material. The moulds are hand-crafted from clay or 3D printed to create various effects, like that of crocodile or snakeskin leather, but also other patterns.

The material can be customised to be either leather-like, rubber-like or plastic-like by adjusting the formula and the way of production. The resulting material is naturally water-resistant, a feature that can be enhanced by adding a coating of beeswax on top. Finally, it is 100% compostable and natural biodegradable.

Photos: Uyen Tran


  1. Yella HASSEL says:

    What a great concept – and the surface is looking great.
    I am teaching fashion design in Vienna at
    we have special shoemaker and bagmaker classes, where the students learn in four year design and craft specifics.
    We would like very much to have the opportunity to recieve free samples for our graduates to use it for the final works.
    Please let us know what kind of credit you would like.
    Here some visuals…
    Kindly get back to me

  2. Sigrid says:

    Hi Yella,

    For more information, it would be best to contact the designer directly by pressing the link in the article.

    Good luck with your project!

    On behalf of Team MaterialDistrict,