Turning chicken feathers into plastic

In Fribourg, the Plastics Innovation Competence Center has a mission to facilitate plastic recycling and develop polymers based on renewable raw materials. It is currently working on an innovative thermoplastic made from chicken feathers.

blueFACTORY in Fribourg
Based at the blueFACTORY in Fribourg, the Plastics Innovation Competence Center bridges the gap between academia and industry.

How can the composition of plastic objects be optimized to facilitate recycling ? What organic materials can be used to create more environmentally friendly packaging ? Is it possible to obtain certain properties for specific applications ? For the past three years, the 21 researchers at the Plastics Innovation Competence Center (PICC) in Fribourg have been providing answers to these questions by developing innovative and sustainable materials and solutions for the plastics industry.

One of the projects looks at developing a cost-effective and greener alternative to plastic packaging using chicken feathers, a raw material that is in copious supply in Fribourg given the strong presence of agrofood players. Poultry feathers consist mainly of keratin, a water-resistant polymer. The Fribourg researchers collect these feathers, which would otherwise be incinerated or composted, then wash and grind them before chemically modifying them. “Our work is still in the experimental phase but we are pretty confident that our efforts will pay off,” explains Roger Marti, Chemistry Professor at the University of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg (HEIA-FR). Demand for the resulting technology could go global.

Addressing the challenges of the plastics industry

Based at the blueFACTORY site, the Plastics Innovation Competence Center brings together three institutes of the HEIA-FR specialized in plastics processing (iRAP), chemical technology (ChemTech) and complex systems (iCoSys). The research platform includes state-of-the-art pilot scale polymer synthesis, plastics processing, and analytical equipment.

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