Chicken-feather shampoo, anyone?
The Biorefinery Industry Development Facility opened in Durban is giving new meaning to the waste not, want not principle
South Africans could soon be lathering their luscious locks with waste chicken feathers.
That’s thanks to a first-of-its-kind, R37.5-million biorefinery facility, where scientists can extract the keratin from chicken feathers to make shampoo and conditioner, and turn mill sludge into biogas and plastics and dust shavings into chemicals.
Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane opened the Biorefinery Industry Development Facility at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Durban on Tuesday. The facility is set to address South Africa’s biomass waste challenges. Biomass refers to the process of producing energy by burning wood and other organic matter.
According to the CSIR, waste is a valuable resource with an estimated value of at least R25.2-billion per annum.
However the value of recyclable waste, which is believed to be in excess of R17-billion per annum, is currently lost to the SA economy through landfilling.
It is against this backdrop that the newly established biorefinery, in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is probing cost-effective ways to extract keratin protein from chicken feathers to use in the manufacture of paper, textiles, cosmetics and shampoo.
The minister herself is fascinated about the potential of chicken feathers.“We can do much with feathers. It means that the whole chicken is important, so we shouldn’t be importing chickens because we need the feathers.
“Growing up in rural areas and townships, who could believe you could do so much with the chicken feathers?”
Kubayi-Ngubane said chicken feathers represent a large waste stream in South Africa, with more than a billion broilers being slaughtered in South Africa in 2013.
“The keratin in chicken feathers has numerous applications once extracted. From shampoos to textiles, the conversion of this waste stream into value-added products will help drive a circular economy in South Africa. The facility has a critical role to play in building a circular economy through the development of innovative industries transforming what is now known as waste into valuable resources,” she said.Professor Bruce Sithole, CSIR’s chief researcher, said 230 million kilograms of chicken feathers are produced after the slaughter of chickens.
“Most of these feathers go to waste; a little bit is used to make animal feed. What we are doing here at this facility is to take these feathers and see what value we can extract from them.
“One of the important components is keratin. In terms of composition, the feathers are comprised of 90% keratin.”
Sithole added that, by extracting keratin from feathers, “we may, in effect, be able to make this by-product more valuable than poultry meat”.