If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, For some, that is just
an old saying; to others, it is a mantra. ARS chemist Walter Schmidt has lived it for years.
Schmidt, in the Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory in Beltsvilte, Maryland, develops practical uses for discarded chicken feathers. About 4 billion pounds of feathers are generated each year during the poultry production process.
In 1998, ARS published its first story about Schmidt's research--using chicken feather fiber in the formation of plastics. Schmidt's persistence has paid off. In collaboration with the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI)--the research and development endowment of the American Nursery and Landscape Association, based in Washington, D.C.--Schmidt and HR1 research associate Masud Huda have formulated planting pots that can degrade over variable periods of time--from 1 to 5 years.
The pots look and feel like any other plastic planters encountered at your local nursery, but they are made to disintegrate naturally, without harm to the environment. In fact, the pots--manufactured without any petroleum components-would slowly release beneficial nitrogen into the soil.
While feathers are routinely processed into feather meal--a livestock feed ingredient-there are a lot more chicken feathers available. Why can't they just be used to stuff pillows?
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