Designer Finds Way to Turn Animal Waste into Sustainable Fabric

Sustainability continues to be a focus for both manufacturers and consumers. Waste and energy usage are growing issues, and scientists are looking for ways to improve our relationship with the environment. Now, a Dutch designer has found a way to turn manure into sustainable fabric, and clothing retailer H&M is investing in it.


Excess manure is a significant problem in some areas, leading to contaminated water and toxic algae blooms. These blooms steal oxygen from the water and can be harmful to humans, increasing the risk of cancer. With our reliance on cows for a multitude of products such as meat and dairy, reducing the quantity of manure produced is challenging. This has motivated designer Jalila Essaïdi to find creative ways to use the extra excrement.


The project is called Mestic, and through it Essaïdi has managed to extract the cellulose from animal waste and turn it into paper, plastic, and sustainable fabric. She dries the manure and separates the solid cellulose from the liquid. The cellulose can then be made into paper, while the liquid can be used to create cellulose acetate, a natural liquid plastic. Fibers can then be made from this and turned into either textiles or bioplastics. All of these products are biodegradable, meaning that they both reuse waste, and do not add to it once their useful life is over. Despite this, they perform similarly to their petroleum-based counterparts. Several pieces of clothing have already been made with this sustainable fabric to show off Mestic’s suitability for use in garments.


With the success of her research, Essaïdi is now planning to increase Mestic production and begin working on a larger scale. She also intends to experiment with other sources of manure. She has so far only worked with cow products, but now plans to look into the possibility of pigs and other animals.


Essaïdi’s project has also caught the attention of H&M. The company is pursuing a goal to become 100% sustainable by 2040, and is therefore investing in a wide range of experimental products. The H&M Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by the owners of H&M, provides an annual award worth approximately USD 154 million that is shared among five winners who have made innovative contributions to the fashion industry. Aside from the monetary prize, the Global Change Award provides access to a one-year innovation accelerator that offers support and coaching.


This year, Essaïdi was one of those winners. While receiving the award does not guarantee that H&M will carry Mestic products in the future, it does provide valuable funding and greater visibility within the industry. The money and support will help Essaïdi develop her product and potentially ready it to be used in commercial products. And to anyone who might be worrying: no, the material does not smell like poop.


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