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Saturday, 18 September 2021

Why bother with feather waste?

In Europe only, it is 3.6 million tonnes of feather waste generated by the poultry industry each year. Discover why it is so important to valorise this waste stream!

From an environmental threat to a valued molecule

Feathers landfilling is a threat for ecosystems, as they contain high amounts of microorganisms that disrupt soil cycles and consequently biodiversity.

But feathers contain nearly 90% of keratin, a valuable protein that can be a source for biodegradable materials.

After valorisation, feather-based materials bring additional environmental benefits. The keratin contained in those innovative materials allow for controlled biodegradability, while also enriching soils with organic nitrogen. Indeed, biodegradability can be adjusted to the crops’ duration with a desired fertilizing effect. 

The need to replace fossil-based products in agriculture

7 million tonnes of plastic are used worldwide in agriculture production each year, mainly fossil-based.

Plastics use in agriculture can hardly be revoke, as it presents significant advantages in terms of logistics and even water use efficiency. Mulch films for instance, representing 80% of plastics in agriculture, help limit weed growth and prevent moisture loss.

Unfortunately, plastics used in agriculture are not sufficiently recycled due to contamination at use phase, and a significant part stays in the fields, generating microplastics!

In line with the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, UNLOCK proposes to release the environmental potential of this underestimated waste stream, by designing economically and environmentally sustainable innovative value chains. From feathers’ storage to treatment efficiency, keratin-based products’ performances and market readiness, UNLOCK works on finding solutions to every hurdle along the value chain and create a feather-based bioeconomy.  

This project has received funding from the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 101023306.

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