Will clothes soon be made of cow dung?

Posted on 05 December 2019.

In the Netherlands, Jalila Essaïdi, a young bio-entrepreneur, pleads for the use of this raw material. A win-win initiative that reduces the amount of manure and launches eco-design in a new environmentally friendly textile sector.

Jalila Essaïdi has developed Mestic -a brand new ecological fabric - from recycled cow dung.

Some 76 million metric tons of cow dung are produced annually in the Netherlands. Usually spread as fertilizer, in large quantities manure pollutes soils, air and water with its high concentration of phosphates - a mineral salt - and nitrogen.

In 2016, the Dutch government introduced strict regulations to limit the emission of these phosphates found in the organic waste produced by cows. Good news for the environment, but a headache for the many farms that now struggle to get rid of their waste.

It is estimated that 30-40% of the country's annual manure production is illegally spread to avoid fines. The solution? Jalila Essaïdi, a Dutch bio-entrepreneur, had an idea: cow dung could be used to make a new raw material. Pure circular economy thinking.

Manure made into cellulose pulp

Thanks to a research project in a laboratory in Eindhoven, this alternative natural materials specialist began looking at the composition of manure. She discovered that by decomposing this waste, it was possible to extract two elements: a wet fraction, resulting from the urine, and a dry fraction, resulting from the solids.

Once separated, these two elements make it possible to produce on the one hand, a solvent, and on the other hand cellulose pulp: a material that can be used to make paper, bioplastics, and textile fibers. Jalila Essaïdi developed a brand new ecological fabric, Mestic (after "mest", which means manure in Dutch), from recycled cow dung. For the time being, twelve clothing prototypes have been produced thanks to the manure the entrepreneur sourced from farmers in her region.

But rest assured that these new dresses and outfits don’t smell of manure! For Jalila Essaïdi, the challenge lies in changing hearts and minds. Cow dung should no longer be considered disgusting waste, but rather a resource.

"I’m sure that in a few years, people will think differently about manure and farmers will be able to sell and make money from it just as they do milk," says the young woman who is now working on the industrialization phase of her process.