Chicken feathers not so chicken – could produce stronger plastics than plant-based plastics

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In Belgium, EU-funded KARMA2020 project is looking to chicken feathers waste by-product from poultry production as a possible valuable feedstock for biobased materials, especially plastics, fertilizers, coatings and composite materials. KARMA2020 scientists are now moving the project forward from laboratory to pilot scale. The have focused on the pre-treatment and conditioning process to get the feathers clean for safe handling and converting them into raw material, including with hot melt extrusion.

Project coordinator Sarah Montes told Phys.org, “Most of the waste is a profitable material. Due to its high keratin content, feathers are likely to produce plastics that are stronger and more tear-resistant compared to those using modified starch or plant proteins, for example.”

Most chicken feathers end up in landfills or go through an energy-intensive process to be converted into low-grade animal feed. According to the European Commission, 13.1 million tons of poultry meat were produced in the EU in 2014.