Many average Americans feel like what passes as haute couture is bullshit. Now, it literally is. Fashion designer Jalila Essaïdi has turned cow dung into fashion by making a fabric from what comes out of cows. The new material is sanitary, and doesn’t have any of the lingering odors of the farm.
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The project is called Mestic. It was meant as a recycling idea. While the cost for producing the new fabric is prohibitive at this point, the proof of concept is compelling. As long as we have cows, we have a manure. Why not make fabric from it?
“This is not the first time that scientists are looking for ways to solve the manure problem,” Essaïdi said. “But it is the first time that manure is being considered as a valuable resource.”
That statement seems somewhat absurd, considering the role manure plays in the production of fertilizer, but Essaïdi doesn’t seem like she’s spent much time on the farm, so we’ll give her a pass on that one.
The new fabric, like the manure itself, is biodegradable, but the material produced has many of the same attributes as plastics produced from fossil fuels. And the material, in more rigid forms, is being tested in flooring and furniture designs, too.
Cow manure is a complex substance. The dry solids are separated to produce pure cellulose. The manure itself contains the cellulose needed for the end product and the chemicals needed for the conversion. The acids are used to create cellulose acetate, a liquid plastic.
The material doesn’t smell, breaks down easily, and is easy to work. There’s a big win here if production can be scaled to cut down on the cost of producing the material.
“After cows, we’ll tackle pigs and other animals,” Essaïdi said. “And after that? Who knows.” Pigs? That is going to produce a new problem, entirely. Pig feces are much more problematic. The smell alone makes working with the material troublesome.
Cow feces has, through history, been used for fertilizer, as a burnable bio-fuel, and now for clothing. Every other piece of the animal is processed and used, too. The only element that remains problematic is the methane released by our our growing herds. If we could find a way to harness that….