Chicken Feathers: A Possible Source of Plastic

Chicken Feathers: A Possible Source of Plastic

This is one of those stories where I can’t decide if it’s good news or bad news. I had a friend who designed a way to create clean water in Africa super cheaply once; he did it with PVC pipe. Which was worse, going without water, or getting water from PVC? Obviously the former is much worse, though many people don’t like the whole “the ends justifies the means” way of thought. That kind of thinking can get you into trouble, after all.

In this case, it’s using chicken feathers to make sustainable plastic. Apparently, seven million tons of chicken feathers are thrown out every year as a waste of the chicken industry, and researchers say they’ve found a way to make sustainable plastic out of them so they don’t go to waste anymore.

If the feathers are already going to waste anyway, and using them would save us from wasting even more petroleum on plastic, perhaps it’s a good thing—but when you think of how bad the chicken industry already is, and how they treat hens, from having no room to even turn around, to eating muck, to having their beaks seared off so they don’t peck each other to death, to even being boiled alive, is it really a green innovation, or is it simply a way to assuage our guilt? Hey, we’re still killing chickens rather brutally, but at least we’re using their byproducts to save petroleum!

I’ve heard of dozens of other plastic alternatives proposed in the past few years, however, and everything from liquid wood to pea starch have been suggested. Have they taken root? I’m not sure if they have in some areas, but largely they haven’t, if any of the plastics I have come into contact with are any indication. So who knows if this whole feather concept will become a reality anyway?

I have to say, while chicken farming continues, if we are given the choice between using feathers or fuel, I would definitely select the feathers myself. It is the lesser of two evils if they are already being wasted to begin with (some might call them blood feathers if used in this way, and they may be right), and at the rate we are spending and wasting our oil, something has to be done to stop the destruction.

I wonder how well feather plastic would decompose—if it would perhaps disintegrate in a whale’s body instead of killing him? Though that sounds like a boon as well, it’s also another way for us to get by with what we are doing by relying on convenience rather than making the lifestyle changes we need to make in order to remain on this planet.

Develop plastic alternatives, scientists, by all means; but the government needs to step in and ban things like plastic bags where they can, as well. Simple changes like that can be made by all, and continually using them when we can avoid it is a gluttonous waste.