Tuesday, July 7

I've Seen the Future and It Is Chicken Feathers

I would not advocate for petroleum-based plastics, whether they were biodegradable or not. However, if you had 4 billion pounds of chicken feathers to discard every year, in addition to eggs that don't meet USDA standards, it might not be bad to consider other uses--even biodegradable plastic bags, car fuel, and mulch made out of chicken feathers. This makes even more sense as the EPA reports, plastic packaging adds 29 million tons of non-biodegradable waste to landfills every year.

Enter Dr. Justin Barone of the Agricultural Research Service who, along with Walter Schmidt, have developed a process that uses only heat, pressure and water to dissolve the sulphur-sulphur bonds in the keratin of the feathers to create plastics. The production is much cheaper and easier than traditional petroleum-based plastic. Not only does the feather plastic reduce waste, but the plastic made from feathers and eggs are also biodegradeable.

While cloth bags for shopping are gaining acceptance, if a replacement for the oil-based plastic bag can be made inexpensively, perhaps this is a good use of science. If chickens can run our cars, this might answer the age old question: "which came first, the chicken or the egghead?"

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