Tômtex is a leather alternative made from waste seafood shells and coffee grounds
Vietnamese designer Uyen Tran has developed a flexible bio-material called Tômtex, a leather alternative made from food waste that can be embossed with a variety of patterns to replicate animal leathers.
In a bid to kill two birds with one stone, Tran developed a substitute using an abundant, natural resource – food waste.
Every year, up to eight million tonnes of waste seafood shells and 18 million tonnes of waste coffee grounds are generated by the global food and drinks industry.
“The world is running out of raw materials, so why I want to repurpose these wastes into a new, accessible bio-material for everyday life to help people better understand the problem and contribute to making a change,” Tran explained.
The New York-based designer works with a supplier in Vietnam, who gathers waste shrimp, crab and lobster shells as well as fish scales, to extract a biopolymer called chitin from them.
This is found in the exoskeleton of insects and crustaceans, rendering them both tough and pliable at the same time. Combined with waste coffee from Tran’s own kitchen and from local cafes, this forms the basis of Tômtex.
The mixture is dyed using natural pigments such as charcoal, coffee and ochre to create a variety of colour options.
“After mixing all the ingredients, the bio-material can be poured into the mould where it is air-dried at room temperature for two days,” said Tran. “The process doesn’t require heat, therefore it saves more energy and reduces carbon footprint.”
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