Did you know that you can recycle a chicken? Well, recycle part of a chicken at least. Research has previously been proposed to use bio-waste (hair, nails, or in this case chicken feathers) to create plastics. But new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society shows that a new mixture using 50% chicken feathers (the largest amount used to date) can actually make the material we use for shopping bags, eating utensils, children's toys and millions of other objects.
Millions of chicken feathers are discarded in the United States each year, which makes finding a use for them highly worthwhile. Feathers are made of the protein keratin. When combined with the chemical methyl acrylate, the feathers form a strong but relatively light weight plastic substance.
|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
This research, led by Yiqi Yang of the University of Nebraska was conducted on a small scale. Until the new feather compound is tested on a large scale for ease of production and energy required for production it is unclear if it could realistically be used to manufacture commercial plastic products.
This research is exciting because it is essentially a form of recycling. The chicken feathers are just being discarded anyway, so if they can be used to make plastics that are more environmentally friendly not only will we benefit from finding a use for the feathers, we'll also benefit from having a more sustainable plastic.
The big BUT in this article is that it needs further testing before it can be implemented. It is important with research like this to remember that a scientific find isn't a definite. Just because something works on a small scale, doesn't mean that it will work on a large scale. So even though the finding is exciting, it doesn't mean that it will actually be implemented.