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Mestic: bioplastic made from cow dung

An average cow eats about 50 kilograms of grass per day, which means that it also produces a lot of poo. Cow dung contains phosphate and nitrogen, which, in small dosages, is beneficial for the soil. Unfortunately, because of the large amount of cows, the agricultural sector produces a surplus of manure, which is harmful for the soil, water and air. Earlier we reported on a company that made ceramics with cow dung. With the project Mestic, designer Jalila Essaïdi and her team have found a way to turn manure into bioplastic.

The word Mestic derives from the Dutch word for manure (‘mest’). Essaïdi was approached by the agricultural sector of the Dutch province Noord-Brabant to help find a way to deal with the surplus of the manure. An annual report in 2016 showed that a total of 172.9 million kilograms of phosphate was produced in the Netherlands, of which 99.7 million kilograms originates from cow manure.

Essaïdi and her team found patented methods to turn the dung into bioplastic, -paper and -textile. This is achieved by completely deconstructing the manure and by utilising the cellulose to make biomaterial products.

The manure is collected at the farm of origin and treated in such a way that allows for the extraction of the right components, both from the liquid and solid fraction of manure. An optional step is to extract the fermentable components and use them to manufacture the process chemicals necessary for ‘pulping’ and acetylation. The pulping and acetylation turns the cellulose that is extracted from the solid fraction of the manure into high-grade cellulose pulp and bio-plastic.

The process shows much promise, especially since several different materials can be derived from manure. The first fashion show containing manure derived biotextile was held on 23 June 2016.

Photos: BioArt Laboratories / Mike Roelofs

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