Chicken feathers are waste products and are normally thrown out. They are inexpensive, abundant and readily available in all countries that eat poultry.
There are over three billion pounds of chicken feathers thrown out just in the United States. Feathers are processed to make animal feed, but the use of feathers is considered a low grade substitute that poses a danger of disease contagion in other animals. So they are thrown out as waste instead, filling land fills and incinerators.
Potential for Chicken Feathers
The main composition of chicken feathers is keratin, not unlike human hair. Keratin is a protein that can give durability to plastics which outperforms other plastic biological products like starch and plant proteins.
There have been several studies into the use of chicken feathers as the main raw material for some kinds of plastics. Of these developments, some have shown promise for industrial use.
Chicken feathers are pulverized then heated. The feathers are mixed with plasticizer which creates a plastic resin that can be moulded. Plastic from chicken feathers has some problems such as being too absorbent. This plastic is not naturally water resistant and will decompose with time unlike petroleum based plastics. Scientist find that the biodegradable quality of chicken feather plastic is desirable for the environment. But the plastic needs to be water resistant to be more useful and replace many petroleum based plastic products.
Thermoplastic from Chicken Feathers
This plastic was unveiled at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society held in March 2011. Thermoplastic from chicken feathers is developed by Yiqi Yang, Ph.D. This plastic is used for thousands of product from toothbrushes, bottle caps and car bumpers. Currently, thermoplastic is manufactured from oil and natural gas. Because of the rising prices of petroleum products, research has gone into finding alternative material and processes for making plastic.
Huda and Walter Schmidt from the US Department of Agriculture have developed what they call a biodegradable plastic from chicken feathers. Their biodegradable plastic has found practical use in flower pots which last only six months to possible a few years. Regular plastic flower pots will last indefinitely, but are not recyclable. This biodegradable plastic has found other uses in car dash boards and other interior plastic car parts.
Chicken Feather Plastic with Commercial Potential
In the United States, a company called Bioplastics has taken keratin plastics from chicken feathers into the mainstream market. They plan to use plastics from chicken feathers to compete with other bioplastics used for creating disposable spoons, forks, and food packaging.