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Nettles, tofu and snail poo: sustainable textiles made from the unexpected


Snail Poo

Sample of snail’s excrement. Photograph: Lieske Schreuder


Powered by article titled “Nettles, tofu and snail poo: sustainable textiles made from the unexpected” was written by Hannah Gould, for on Tuesday 19th August 2014 12.19 UTC

Snail poo

During a snail plague in her garden that involved old paper boxes, Dutch designer Lieske Schreuder discovered that if snails eat coloured paper it dyes their poo.

From here, Schreuder bought hundreds of snails, built a laboratory and collected their bright-hued poo, using a machine she built to grind and mix it and turn it into flexible threads. It takes around five days for nine snails to produce the amount of poo necessary for one metre of thread.

The use of snail poo in fashion is probably limited to haute couture and limited further by the fact the material is temporary and will eventually biodegrade.

Schreuder assures anyone concerned that paper is of a similar cell structure cellulose to plants and trees and that no snails are harmed in the making of snail poo thread.

Tofu waste

Tofu Dish

Soy fabric is made from by-product of tofu. Photograph: Mediablitzimages (UK) Limited/Alamy

Soy fabric is made from the by-product of soy foods such as tofu and soybean oil. The soy protein is liquefied and extruded into long, continuous fibres that are cut and processed like cotton. While soy fabric production helps reduce waste, only 2-3% of the world’s soy supply is certified (pdf) and the crop has links with poor labour conditions and deforestation in the Amazon.

Wolffish skin

Icelandic tannery, Atlantic Leather is taking perch, salmon, wolffish and cod skin, a by-product of the fisheries industry and turning it into leather for luxury fashion.


Outdoor clothing company Patagonia partnered with clean technology company Yulux to create a wetsuit less dependent on the synthetic, petroleum-derived material, neoprene. The resulting co-developed wetsuit which will be part of Patagonia’s Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, is 40% neoprene and 60% plant-based biorubber derived from the desert plant, guayule.

Patagonia is making the biorubber available to the rest of the surf industry in order to encourage volume up and force price down.

Abandoned sleeping bags

Camping Tents

View of tents on the campsites at Glastonbury festival 2008. Photograph: David Levene

In 2011, the Association of Independent Festivals found that one in six tents were left behind at festivals. Some 12,000 tents were abandoned at the Isle of Wight festival in that year alone. Taking tents, tarpaulins and sleeping bags left behind at the the 2013 Secret Garden Party festival, design students at Nottingham Trent University turned festival waste into fashion.


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