Chicken Suit Not Just for Big Bird Anymore: A New Green Fabric from Chicken Feathers
As the fashion industry looks to transition to greener materials, a number of researchers are turning to agricultural waste products to create new sustainable fabrics. Among these, fabric made from chicken feathers.
The global poultry industry produces more than 4 billion pounds of chicken feathers every year. They are inexpensive and readily available. The stringy, fluffy part of the feather, which makes up about half of the featherâ€™s mass, is made of keratin just like sheepâ€™s wool. It can be made into a fabric that feels very similar to wool and is biodegradable, unlike synthetic fabrics. Chicken feather fabric may even provide some advantages to wool in that it is less expensive, light weight, and provides superior heat and sound insulation.
While further study is needed before chicken fabric hits the market, scientists are investigating other fabrics made from agricultural waste products. Researchers are working on a linen-like fabric made from rice straw, a byproduct of rice production. The United States alone generates approximately two billion pounds of rice straw every year, with an additional 18 billion produced worldwide. The straw can be broken down in an eco-friendly process using enzymes, and then spun into a fabric that could provide a less expensive and greener replacement for linen or cotton.
Approximately 67 million tons of textiles are produced every year for clothing, carpets, furniture, vehicles, and construction materials. This demand is placing an ever-greater strain on our agriculture and petroleum industries. The transition to utilizing waste products would cut costs and reduce the environmental footprint of the entire textile industry.