A breakthrough could turn millions of tonnes of waste chicken feathers into a perennial source of green, bio-degradable plastic.

Others have tried to develop thermoplastics from feathers. But none of them perform well when wet, said Yiqi Yang, study co-author from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who led the research.

Chicken feathers are an excellent prospect, Yang explained, because they are inexpensive and abundant. Annually there are more than three billion pounds of waste chicken feathers in the US alone, according to a Nebraska statement.

Thermoplastics are one of two major groups of plastics, and include nylon, polyethylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and dozens of other kinds.

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