CORDIS - EU research results

Unlocking a feather bioeconomy for keratin-based agricultural products

Project description

Poultry feathers as a source of bio-based raw materials for the bioeconomy

Europe's poultry sector generates around 3.6 million tonnes of feathers per year. Around 25 % are collected separately for animal feed or fertilisers, while the rest is disposed of in landfills, incinerated or collected with other poultry by-products. Feathers comprise nearly 90 % keratin, a valuable protein that can be a source of biodegradable bioplastics for agriculture. The EU-funded UNLOCK project will design and demonstrate economically and environmentally sustainable value chains that can generate innovative bio-based products for agricultural applications, including seed trays, geotextiles, mulch films and hydroponic foams. Keratin-based materials will outperform their fossil-based counterparts by providing additional functionalities and environmental benefits at the end of life through controlled biodegradability, enriching the soil with nitrogen and generating zero waste.


Only in Europe 3,6 million tonnes of feathers are generated per year as waste of the poultry sector. Around 25% is used for animal feed or fertilisers while the rest is disposed in landfills or incinerated. Feathers contain nearly 90% of keratin, a valuable protein which can source for biodegradable materials, such as bioplastics for agriculture. However, to unlock the full potential of feathers as raw material for functional molecules, there are many technical, logistic and market hurdles to solve in the supply chain for the takeoff of profitable value chains and for the easy market uptake of keratin-based products. UNLOCK will design and demonstrate economically & environmentally sustainable value chains led by the primary sector, which will generate innovative bio-based functional products for agricultural applications: forest/seed trays, nonwoven geotextiles, mulch films and hydroponic foams. Keratin-based materials will outperform their fossil-based counter parts by providing additional functionalities during the product life span and environmental benefits at the end-of-life (controlled biodegradability, enrichment of organic nitrogen to soil and zero waste generation). UNLOCK will create 4 new bio-based value chains, 4 new agricultural consumer goods and at least 3 cross sector interconnections among the primary sector (poultry sector), the bioplastics industry and the agricultural sector, opening up new innovation-led market and job opportunities in the EU bioeconomy. UNLOCK conversion technologies will evolve from TRL5 to 7, demonstrating the full potential of keratin for circular bio-based plastics, through a multidisciplinary consortium of 15 partners (8 SMEs), supported by a strong stakeholder board. UNLOCK will enable the setup of 2 first-of-its-kind commercial biorefineries after the end of the project. The co-creation and replication will be reinforced through a specific regional cluster approach to multiply the impacts during and after the project.


Net EU contribution
€ 553 350,00
20014 San Sebastian

See on map

Noreste País Vasco Gipuzkoa
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 651 000,00

Participants (15)