Late 2015, bioartist and Postcode Lottery Green Challenge nominee Jalila Essaïdi was approached by the agricultural sector of Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands. She was asked to think about a solution for the surplus cow manure that seriously threatens our environment and health. Jalila and her team came up with an invention that they called Mestic®, an amalgamation of the Dutch word ‘mest’ (manure) and plastic.

Mestic portret Jalila EssaidiCan you explain to us what Mestic® does and what the manure surplus is?
“If I put it really simple: we transform cow manure into new raw materials. We directly derive bio-plastic, paper and textile from manure. We often say: we want to create a world where people give a shit about the planet!

About 1,5 years ago, I wanted to convince the county government of Noord-Brabant about another project I was doing. But in return they wanted to know if I could design a solution for the manure surplus. In 2014, Europe produced 612,560 billion kg dairy cattle manure and 421,395 billion kg misc cattle manure. Hard statistics for excess manure are not available, however we can safely assume that a large quantity was not used on the land due to various reasons. This is evident from the amount of storage holdings. Cattle numbers have grown since 2014, so for 2017 these estimated numbers are valued even higher.

In any case, the problem is acute. The Netherlands as well as neighbouring countries have exceeded the EU’s phosphate limits. Producing more phosphate and other nutrients than the soil can handle is disastrous for the environment and public health. Eventually, plants and animals will disappear on acid soil and the problem poses a serious threat to the quality of our drinking water.

We have a special role in this cooperation: we are independent. We talk to the farmers, the provincial policy-makers, the water authorities, and all the other stakeholders that are in one way or another related to the problem and often have opposing views. We connect two polluting industries in the process: our solution is a circular system that will not only solve the present cow manure problem, but will also provide a sustainable source of biomaterials to the manufacturing industry.”

How does it work?
“We recompose the ingredients of manure. From our research we learned that we could transform the high percentage of cellulose chemicals into cellulose derivatives and could generate new sustainable raw materials. To show the endless possibilities, we developed garments and held a fashion show with clothing items made from the materials derived from manure.

Our aim is to bring Mestic® to the market within two years, as a replacement of wood and cotton for the textile industry. Part of our work at the moment is about overriding people’s natural aversion to waste. Bottom line still is that we deal with waste streams. But if people hold our textiles in their hands, they can see and feel it’s genuinely new. We see the local waste stream as something really beautiful. We benefit from the fact that society becomes more and more open and people realize that we have to look at the world in a different way to see opportunities.

We want to confirm the scalability of our key process in a demo plant. We aim for a central approach of waste collection and processing. Also, we have plans already on paper to takes steps in 2018 and we aim to set up our first commercial production.”

How does Mestic® reduce CO2 emissions?
“There are several ways in which we aim to reduce CO2 emissions. Mestic®’s approach is based on local production with local raw materials (manure). Currently, almost all textiles are imported from Asia. Through local transport we reduce our GWP compared to sea transport with an average of 360kg CO2 equivalent per tonne of transported fibre.

In addition, a Mestic® plant combines two traditionally separated processes: pulping and fibre production. This enables us to utilize the residual heat of the pulp process in the spinning process of the fibres. This reduces our GWP with 3800kg CO2 eq/t fibre compared to current production methods in among others, China.

And lastly, we learned that methane emission by cows could be reduced to 70% by a simple adjustment of their nutrition. This reduces our GWP with 2940kg CO2 eq/t. This adjustment also results in a higher yield for Mestic®. More fibre rich foods translate into a higher percentage of useful cellulose that we can turn into sustainable products.

For the Netherlands our approach is very promising. All the required technologies are present here. Moreover, it’s a small country and the agricultural sector is a closed-packed field. But in other parts of the world our approach has to be different. We are learning about that now and are also getting ready to spread out globally.”

Mestic 2