If you thought packing materials made out of mushrooms and cottonseed was weird, wait until you can buy a chair with plastic components featuring chicken feathers. Bio resins may soon replace traditional petroleum in some office furniture products. Keratin, the strong fibrous protein found in feathers (and in hair and fingernails), has properties that could make it useful in manufacturing plastics. The challenge is to find the right blend of biodegradability and durability.
Unfortunately, there aren’t really enough feathers to go around. Businesses that want to tap into the feather market may end up getting in a pillow fight over these scarce resources. There are only 3 billion pounds of chicken feathers generated as a byproduct of poultry farming in the U.S. each year. If all poultry plants sold their feathers for use in bio resin products, this would still only replace a few percent of our annual petroleum usage for manufacturing plastic products. But, as office furniture manufacturers are showing every day, it’s not one solution but a combination of many innovative ideas that leads to a more sustainable business future.