Feather paper

Material scientists at Manchester University have developed a means to make wrapping paper from the feathers of birds.

A team led by Prof Chris Carr from the School of Materials broke down and filtered large amounts of bird feathers, after which, machinery unique to Manchester University was used to turn the feathery pulp into paper. The new process was piloted using duck, goose and poultry feathers.

It is estimated that around 120,000 tonnes of feathers are produced every year in UK alone from poultry farmers. But the vast majority of feathers plucked from the birds are incinerated or end up in landfill.

Hence, there is a pressing demand for an alternative processing route for the feathers – especially as companies currently have to pay for unwanted feathers to be taken away.

As well as paper, scientists at the university have been able to make plant pots that are potentially flame retardant and more biodegradable than traditional plastic plant pots.

Researchers believe these feather-based pots may also offer enhanced fertilising properties as a result of the nitrogen supplied by the protein in the feathers.

Using a unique paper pilot plant, they have even made prototype egg boxes from unwanted feathers.

Prof Carr joined forces with Dr Nick Clarke from Manchester University’s Digital Print Centre to create colourful feather-based wrapping paper

Prof Carr said: ‘We are very excited and encouraged by our results and the prototypes we have produced, although there is still some way to go before products start to appear on the shelves.’

Manchester University is currently working with industrial partners to develop the necessary processes and technology to produce commercially viable feather-based products.