Virginia company uses poultry feathers in plastic

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: April 4, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Materials, Suppliers, NPE 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 4, 8 p.m. ET) — Virginia compounder Eastern Bioplastics LLC has found a new, untapped raw material source — poultry feathers.

The Harrisonburg, Va., start-up is about to commercialize technology to mix plastics with some of the three billion pounds of leftover chicken and other poultry feathers in the United States to make what it says will be a cheaper, lower carbon footprint material for a range of applications.

“It’s a byproduct, and unlike some other bio-resins that are out there on the market, ours is the only one that doesn’t belong in the food chain,” said President and majority shareholder Sonny Meyerhoeffer. “Nowhere in the food chain is it used other than for animal feed or pet food, and it’s currently being pulled back from in the pet food industry.”

Eastern recently took delivery on its first commercial scale extrusion line, an Omega 95 twin-screw extruder from Bangalore, India-based Steer Engineering Pvt. Ltd. (Booth 5762), which helped it develop the process. It currently has a lab scale machine.

The new material will mix polypropylene or polyethylene with poultry feathers, with up to 50 percent feathers by weight, he said in an interview at Steer’s booth at the NPE show.

Unlike some wood fibers, the feathers bind well to plastic because they are a keratin protein, similar to hair or nails, and can potentially produce a stronger and lighter material, the company said.

Meyerhoeffer said the material can be used in automotive parts, office furniture and simpler products like plastic buckets. It’s also seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use its compounds, which would significantly broaden its potential markets, he said.

“It’s a wide range of things it will be used for, anything that is hard and durable that is injection molded,” he said.

Eastern has some injection molding machines in-house, but plans to manufacture the material and sell it to injection molding companies. The company is also interested in licensing the technology, and is looking globally, Meyerhoeffer said.

“We’ve had interest from all over the world, not only the resin side but in the licensing technology side as well,” he said. “Our business model is you won’t have one big resin factory but you’ll have little factories following the poultry business.”

Meyerhoeffer said he started Eastern after being approached by Justin Barone, who at the time was a researcher at the United States Department of Agriculture and is now a minority shareholder in the company.

Barone was on a USDA team that had done the initial research idea, but he had been unsuccessful in three tries working with other companies to commercialize it before an acquaintance connected the two men in 2007.

Meyerhoeffer said he was intrigued by the research. He had a background in the poultry industry, starting a company, the Virginia Poultry Growers Association, in Hinton, Va., as a venture to save 130 turkey growers and a processing plant with 500 jobs, and served as president of that group for three years.

In 2008, he put together a business plan and formed Eastern Bioplastics. Today the company has 10 employees.

One of the challenges was creating a process that both cleans the feathers, which are obtained from poultry processing plants, and that can operate in a continuous, as opposed to batch, manufacturing process that is compatible with extrusion.

Another challenge was to make it economical and energy efficient, “going at it in an economically viable sense so you weren’t putting more energy in that what you’re getting out,” he said.

“You have to end up at an energy-plus situation or you haven’t accomplished anything,” Meyerhoeffer said.

The company has done some in-house life cycle analysis and is now commissioning independent LCA studies, but it believes the material can have a carbon footprint up to 30 percent less than traditional petrochemical-based plastics.

“That is huge for somebody looking at a building material and picking up LEED credits [for energy efficient buildings,” he said.


Comments

Virginia company uses poultry feathers in plastic

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: April 4, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

GameDay Challenge expands the competition to the recycling bin

August 20, 2014 10:23 am ET

GameDay Recycling Challenge is returning this year as college football stadiums will compete to see which school produces the least amount of waste...    More

Image

Pactiv selling building products unit to Ireland's Kingspan

August 19, 2014 3:54 pm ET

Irish building material manufacturer Kingspan Group plc is acquiring the insulation business of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Pactiv Building Products for...    More

Image

Flexible film waste-to-oil pilot project continuing in California

August 19, 2014 3:19 pm ET

A recent decision to discontinue operations at a plastics waste-to-oil site in Portland, Ore., is not impacting a pilot program aimed at hard-to-...    More

Image

ISO publishes international standard for measuring phthalates in toys

August 19, 2014 10:40 am ET

The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published an international standard on phthalates used as plasticizers in...    More

Image

RTP expands very long fiber thermoplastic production to Mexico

August 19, 2014 9:47 am ET

RTP Co. has introduced very long fiber reinforced compounds at its Monterrey, Mexico, facility.    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events