Canadian Plastics

Plastic from feathers

What to do with leftover feathers? It is hardly a rhetorical question. About four billion pounds of chicken feathers are produced annually in the U.S. At present poultry farmers mix water with leftove...

May 1, 2000   Canadian Plastics



What to do with leftover feathers? It is hardly a rhetorical question. About four billion pounds of chicken feathers are produced annually in the U.S. At present poultry farmers mix water with leftover feathers in pressure cookers to make a low-grade farm feed. A group of researchers at the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD, has found a way to turn feathers into value-added products such as plastic and paper.

First, the feathers are shredded and the more valuable barb fibres (plumage) are separated from the central quills. The keratin fibres in the barbs are stronger and less brittle than those in the quill. Once separated, the ground fibres can replace glass-fibre fillers in commodity plastics such as polyethylene to make material suitable for applications ranging from dog-food bowls to car interior parts, according to the researchers. Also, by mixing the fibre powder with a reducing agent and placing the resulting slurry in a press, one scientist has created polymer films. Studies show the biodegradable film may be suited for packaging applications such as candy wrappers and six-pack can-holders.

Circle Reader Service No. 157


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