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By changing the mindset from perceiving cow manure as smelly waste, to a valuable resource that we could wrap ourselves in, Jalila Essaïdi has paved the way for a new, bio-material. This material can reinvent the fashion industry, and at the same time reduce methane gas in the atmosphere and lessen contamination in water and soil.

Winner 2017

The innovation in a nutshell

Extracting and using the cellulose in cow manure to create textile.

More in detail

Cow waste is an environmental issue around the world due to the intensive farming that is going on. In New Zeeland, an estimated 60% of waterways are unsafe for swimming due to runoff from dairy farms full of algae-promoting nitrates, phosphates and bacteria. The EU has limits on manure used as fertiliser, to reduce water pollution.

In the Netherlands, a huge dairy production country, there are regular reports of organised “manure fraud”. In 2015, Dutch policy makers challenged entrepreneur Jalila Essaïdi to find a solution for the excess cow manure.

“I took the manure into the lab and discovered that it is full of wonderful ingredients”, recounts Jalila. When cows eat grass and other biomass containing cellulose, the food is exposed to enzymes and acids in their stomachs. For dairy cattle, their manure contains up to 35% cellulose.

Cotton fibre, which is the most used fibre in the textile industry, consists of almost pure cellulose. By changing this to regenerated fibre from cow manure, the textile industry could take a big step towards becoming more sustainable and circular.

“What makes our process better than the normal textile industry method is that we don’t need high pressure, as the cow stomach is the first step in making the fibre softer. It’s also more energy efficient,” said Jalila.

Another huge upside is that through this process, methane gas production is reduced and contamination of soil and water by phosphate and nitrate is prevented.

“Through the Global Change Award we understood we needed focus. Their network gave us insights in preferred technologies and the willingness of existing industry when it comes to incorporating potentially disruptive innovation. All these insights helped shape top-level decisions and made our future roadmap more concrete”.

Jalila Essaidi

Team members: Jalila Essaidi and George Johannes van Trier
Country: Netherlands