Space & Innovation

Cow Dung Turned Into Fabric, Paper, Plastic

A Dutch designer has found a way to deal with excess excrement.

In the United States alone, farm animals excrete 335 million tons of manure. Phosphorus and nitrogen in the runoff contaminate water and can lead to toxic algae blooms and increase the risk in humans for developing cancer.

Designer Jalila Essaïdi of The Netherlands wants to be a part of the solution. Her BioArtLab's latest project, Mestic, aims to convert cow manure in fabric, plastic and paper.

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"This is not the first time that scientists are looking for ways to solve the manure problem," she told Dezeen. "But it is the first time that manure is being considered as a valuable resource."

To get from poo to product, Essaïdi dries the manure, separating the cellulose, which is present thanks to the cow's grazing, from the liquid parts. The cellulose can be turned into paper.

The wetter parts contain acids that are used to create cellulose acetate, a natural liquid plastic. Thin fibers are formed from this liquid and turned into textiles or bio-plastic that behave like products derived from petroleum.

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According to Dezeen, the acetate can also be freeze-dried to create an aerogel.

Unlike petroleum-based plastics, Essaïdi's poo-products are biodegradable and can also be engineered in the lab to last for different periods of time, depending on what they'll be used for.

Here's a video that shows Essaïdi's work.