Bioplastics — How One Virginia Company is Making Plastic out of Feathers

Friday, 28 March 2014 11:45 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way...

Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way.

Co-founders Sonny Meyerhoeffer and Dr. Justin Barone established the company in Mount Crawford, Va., in 2008. They combined Meyerhoeffer’s background as an entrepreneur in the poultry industry with Barone’s engineering expertise as a professor at Virginia Tech to accomplish a difficult task — commercializing R&D into an effective process.

The company replaces up to 50 percent of the petroleum component of plastics with fiber made from chicken feathers. This chicken feather fiber, called feather fiber intermediate, has a number of advantages over petroleum. It is a renewable resource and makes use of something that was previously viewed as a waste product. In addition, the chicken feather fibers are very strong yet lightweight, making them ideal for plastic products.

Eastern BioPlastics has developed a proprietary technique that cleans and processes the chicken feathers in a cost-competitive way. The feather fiber intermediate is blended with polyolefins in a resin, and then extruded into pellet form. These pellets are then sold to original equipment manufacturers that use injection molding to form any number of end products for use in the automotive, furniture and sports equipment industries. The company is currently beta testing this product with customers.

Eastern BioPlastics has also developed a second product called Environmental BioProtector. Feathers are extremely oil absorbent; news coverage of massive oil spills illustrates how birds suffer because the oil becomes trapped in their feathers. The company has developed a product using chicken feathers to help clean up oil spills, from large-scale disasters to consumer use for car oil leaks. Environmental BioProtector is USDA certified and made of 99 percent bio-based material, making it one of the most eco-friendly and low cost oil absorbing solutions on the market today. The company has been selling this product since May 2013.

Creating an entirely new product in 2008 was no easy feat, especially during the economic downturn of 2009-2010. According to co-founder Meyerhoeffer, “Back then nobody wanted to take a chance on anything new. We had to figure out how to break in and create a market with a brand new product.”

When asked why he kept going during these early days, Meyerhoeffer responded, “I was never led to quit and we stayed at it because we knew there was something there that was better. You have to persevere through the tough times. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way. You know you’ve got something viable and it’s just about continuing through to the end.”

The founders of Eastern BioPlastics exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that’s alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn what Virginia offers and why it’s a great place to start a business, click here.

Eastern BioPlastics co-founder Sonny Meyerhoeffer displays his Bioplastic Composite Resins made from chicken feathers. 

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Danville Community College Prepares Virginia's Advanced Manufacturing Workforce

Thursday, 3 October 2013 16:37 by Info@YesVirginia.org

With the U.S. seeing a resurgence of manufacturing jobs, Danville Community College (DCC) has launched a new initiative, the Southern Virginia Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing (SVCAM), to ensure Virginia, and especially the Dan River region, is well-positioned to capitalize on this trend.

One of the goals of SVCAM is to expand DCC’s advanced manufacturing training programs. The manufacturing jobs that have been reshored tend to be higher tech jobs that require a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) background.

DCC has already increased the size of its popular Precision Machining Technology program. Graduates are in high demand from businesses in the region, and DCC has doubled enrollment capacity and added two new machining instructors.

With additional funding from the Virginia General Assembly and other industry partners, DCC plans to renovate its Charles Hawkins Engineering and Industrial Technology building and expand machining lab and classroom space from 6,500 to more than 20,000 square feet. SVCAM funding will also be used to expand DCC’s welding, robotics, industrial maintenance, electronics, polymer manufacturing, engineering technology, additive manufacturing and nanotechnology programs.

Another benefit of the SVCAM program is increased outreach to younger students. DCC has partnered with area high schools to establish a 33-hour dual enrollment program that allows juniors and seniors to earn credit towards an Advanced Manufacturing Certificate and gain valuable skills in one of four areas:  precision machining technology, electronics, industrial maintenance or welding.

The benefits of the SVCAM program are already paying off. North American Mold Technol