Fashion Is Bullsh-t: Textile Made From Cow Dung Wins H&M’s Award

H&M Global Change Award Goes to
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* Global Challenge Award supports sustainability in apparel production
* Dutch artist claims $1M prize for fabric made from cow dung
* It will reduce phosphates in the land, water and air

Dutch artist and entrepreneur Jalila Essaidi was among the five winners selected to receive H&M’s Global Change Award this year, thanks to a new collection made from remnants of cow manure.

The award, which recognizes sustainability in fashion via “game-changing ideas that can help reinvent the entire industry,” went to Essaidi’s winning innovation — a new bio-plastic material called Mestic. It’s a cellulose (viscose) fabric derived from cow manure, and it won her a $1 million prize.

Manure “is easily considered the most vile substance we know,” writes Essaidi on her website. “Mestic shows that even this most disgusting matter is inherently beautiful.”

mestic viscose

Viscose made from Mestic fibers

She was inspired to create the fabric after reading a report from the Dutch government that said excessive phosphate production from the livestock industry was damaging the environment. Secretary of State Martijn van Dam called for a 4%-8% reduction in phosphate in order to protect the land, water and air.

To make Mestic, Essaidi and her team first collect raw manure from farmers, then they separate the dry manure from the wet manure. Cellulose is directly extracted from the dry dung; they use chemicals to break down the cellulose in wet manure. The next step is to process the cellulose into material similar to cardboard, then an acid is used to turn the mix into a liquid that can be processed into plastics or textile fibers.

mestic clothes

A model wears clothing made from Mestic

The fashion industry — especially fast fashion brands like Forever 21, Topshop and H&M — has come under fire in recent years for having a detrimental impact on the environment. Newsweek called it an “environmental crisis.” The H&M Foundation launched the Global Change Award in 2015 as a way to boost sustainability in the industry.

Check out this video for details on how Mestic is produced: