Sustainability-focused brands Nespresso and Zèta have teamed up to create a collection of sneakers using recycled coffee grounds.

When Laure Babin founded zero-waste fashion start-up Zèta in September 2020, she never imagined releasing a shoe collection with coffee giant Nespresso just two years later.

“It all started when Nespresso CEO Guillaume Le Cunff stumbled upon Zèta on LinkedIn in January 2021. He was intrigued by our approach, as the recycled, vegan and grape sneakers (one of the original upcycled products of Zeta) are not very common. Guillaume sent a direct message with a challenge: ‘Bravo for the trainers of grapes, but what about the coffee?’ “says Babin.

“At the time, it was difficult because we didn’t know how to make leather with coffee grounds. We started the journey to seek out suppliers who could undertake research and development to create coffee-based vegan leather.

“It turned out that there was no coffee leather on the market. We finally met Tintex Textiles, market leader in innovative textiles in Portugal, who decided to join us in this adventure. After eight months of testing, research and development, Tintex created a coffee material that could be made into sneakers,” says Babin.

Inspired by the principles of zero waste, eco-design and French style, Zèta has launched Re:Ground, a limited-edition collection of café sneakers made from 80% recycled and upcycled materials. Each pair of sneakers from the capsule collection contains recycled coffee grounds from Nespresso, the equivalent of 12 espressos.

In line with Zèta’s sustainable philosophy, the Re:Ground sneakers, priced at US$166, are only available in the European market to avoid overseas air shipments and minimize its carbon footprint.

Zèta is committed to working in short circuits with only European suppliers close to its manufacturing workshop to reduce its carbon footprint. The vegan coffee leather is therefore made in Portugal from used coffee grounds from Nespresso recycling centers in Europe, where the coffee grounds are extracted and separated from the aluminum capsules. Babin says this café leatherette is an innovative and sustainable material that reflects economic circularity.

The shoes are made from environmentally friendly materials, present both in the textile underlayer, which is a 100% cotton fabric, and in the cover layer, made up of approximately 20% green polymers and bio-based, and approximately 65% ​​water-based polyurethane.

“We added 15% coffee grounds from the Nespresso capsule recycling program. This coffee imitation leather has several sustainable aspects, including the incorporation of used coffee grounds, a high content of organic substances, natural dyes and an eco-responsible treatment,” explains Babin.

“Coffee grounds are incorporated into the insole and outsole, and all of the brown details of the shoe contain coffee. The soles have a speckled effect that comes from recycled rubber particles and coffee grounds.

This capsule collection consists of three models entitled Latte, Cappuccino and Ristretto.

“It’s the sole that perfectly matches the name of the drink. A white sole for the Latte sneaker, a honey sole for the Cappuccino sneaker and a dark brown sole for the Ristretto sneaker, make this collection a unique creation,” explains Babin.

The composition of the Re:Ground sneakers stays true to the classic model of the Zèta shoes with the choice of corn plant material for the outside of the sneakers. The inner lining is mesh made from plastic bottles caught in the Mediterranean Sea. The laces are made from recycled plastic, the removable insole is made from recycled cork, the outsole is made from recycled synthetic rubber and the glue is made from recycled latex.

For Babin, it was imperative to create a brand using recycled materials in shoes.

“We can no longer use only sustainable materials or natural resources. We have an abundance of waste that we can use. The idea was to give waste another life and create a new product that combines innovation, aesthetics and sustainability,” she explains.

Babin says it was only fitting to partner with Nespresso for this collection, as the brands share the same commitments to environmental and social responsibility.

Laure Babin founded the zero-waste fashion start-up Zèta in September 2020.

“Nespresso has a deep and long-standing commitment to sustainability, and circularity is a key part of that,” she says.

According to Anne-Claude Truchement, head of accessories at Nespresso, sustainability is ingrained in the company’s DNA, which launched its capsule recycling program in 1991.

“For more than 30 years, we have been exploring and learning how to best integrate social and environmental considerations into our operations while improving efficiency and growing sustainably,” says Truchement.

“For example, Nespresso offers a recycled beach towel made from 100% recycled materials, including post-consumer plastic bottles and plastic captured from the sea, reducing waste in the world’s oceans.”

Truchement says Nespresso’s recent B-Corp certification is a designation that the company upholds high standards of verified sustainable performance, accountability and transparency.

“Achieving B-Corp certification is a marker of the positive impact Nespresso has had in the coffee industry. A key contributor is our unique approach to sourcing coffee through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ program, which is a coffee sourcing program designed to ensure the continued supply of high-quality coffee while improving livelihoods of farmers and their communities, and protecting the environment,” she says.

Truchement adds that sustainable operation is not important, it is a must in the configuration of any company.

“Not only as humans but as businesses, we understand the need to move from a linear economy to a circular economy,” she says.

“Nespresso’s central objective is to move towards sustainable coffee production and involve consumers in the importance of sustainable consumption, which is why we participate in these initiatives, to inspire and involve them in our recycling effort.

“I think what Laure has done is amazing because it turns waste into something super stylish. The goal is to bring this circular economy idea to the fashion industry where we know there is has a lot to do.

Babin hopes that Zèta’s commitment to transparent and sustainable manufacturing will encourage other brands in the fashion industry to push the boundaries in terms of creating new value from waste.

“Although we have less weight than other big brands like fast fashion companies, we try to operate in the best possible way with the best product composition and the best working conditions for artisans. That way, he can be an inspiration for other brands,” she says.

“The Nespresso and Zèta meeting was a great way for us to show others how innovation is a key part of this process. We need business owners like Laure who are super nimble, passionate, young and dynamic to drive this change,” says Truchement.

From its inception, Zèta has challenged itself to deconstruct the shoe industry and offer a collection of sneakers made entirely from vegan and recyclable materials, while being as transparent as possible. The company also gives a second life to materials like grapes and corn, and given the multitude of waste that exists, Babin does not intend to stop there.

“We are working on developing a range of seaweed shoes, but we are still in the research and development stage at the moment. Additionally, we plan to change our logistics by shipping by train to further reduce our carbon footprint. We would also like to achieve B-Corp certification to reinforce our commitment to the environment,” she says.

Babin hopes the Re:Ground capsule collection will delight fans of coffee and fashion, and strives to continue designing recyclable and vegan sneakers with the lowest possible environmental impact.

“Knowing how your shoes are made and under what conditions makes the difference. With every step you take, you support a brand that respects animals, the planet and its people,” says Babin.

“Re:Ground is the embodiment of our collaboration with Nespresso, a chic and stylish shoe that celebrates the value of coffee and the virtue of circularity.”

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This article first appeared in the July/August 2022 edition of the Global Coffee Report. Learn more HERE.