via Rich Ford flickrvia Rich Ford flickr

Have you ever wondered what happens to plucked turkey feathers? For the most part turkey feathers as well as feathers from various other poultry are simply incinerated, made in to low -grade animal feedstock or thrown away only to end up in a landfill. Fortunately, several scientists are working hard to develop new eco-friendly ways to recycle these feathers for future use.

Last year in December of 2008 scientists, led by Professor Chris Carr, from the University of Manchester, discovered a way to recycle turkey and other poultry feathers into wrapping paper using a machine unique only to the University of Manchester. This machine turns the broken down and filtered feather pulp into paper.

In addition to wrapping paper the University of Manchester is working on creating "plant pots that are potentially flame retardant and more biodegradable than traditional plastic plant pots, " as well as egg boxes and soil fertilizer. According to the University of Manchester website the products developed are only still prototypes.

This year a team at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) lead by Dr. Andrew Poole, is working on finding new ways to "replace petrochemical products with bio-based materials". They are concentrating on turning chicken feathers into fibers because of the keratin, a protein, in the feathers (also in wool), which makes the feathers tough and chemical resistant. Why? According to the website, it is annually renewable, commercially abundant, of consistent quality and of guaranteed supply.

The poultry to fiber process sum up goes like this: the feathers are washed, dried, ground, dissolved, turned into a keratin solution and then developed into a fiber. This too is still in development phase as scientist make sure that the fiber made holds strong when wet.

Also, this year chemist Walter Schmidt from ARS (Agricultural Research Service) who has been working on methods to recycled feathers for years has now, with the help of Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) in Washington, DC found a new way to use feathers to make biodegradable flowerpots out of chicken feathers. Over time, about 1 to 5 years, the flowerpots release nitrogen into the soil as they biodegrade. These innovative flowerpots look like regular plastic flowerpots, but unlike regular plastic flowerpots they are not manufactured with petroleum.

Despite all this wonderful news, the feather made products are not yet on the market. In fact, much of it is still in prototype phase, but the eco-friendly feather future looks promising when so many scientist are dedicating their time (years of time) searching for  developing new ways to recycle feathers that would otherwise go to waste. For more information on any of these innovations visit the links below:

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)


Christmas Wrapping Paper Made From Turkey Feathers

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Green Design

University of Manchester