A University of Delaware professor has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for creating a leather substitute out of chicken feathers, which could lead to the production of many different eco friendly products in the fashion industry. Dr. Richard Wool's Eco-leather is made without the use of destructive chemicals that are typically involved in the manufacture of cowhide and leather items.
Eco-leather is made by compressing chicken feathers with plant oils under extreme amounts of heat and pressure to create a soft, pliable but strong texture. The process was developed from techniques previously used in the aerospace industry. According to Wool, there's plenty of the base material lying around to make this substance commercially viable.
"There [are] about 6 billion tons of these chicken feather fibers that are a waste stream material, and a bit of a nuisance to the chicken processing companies," Wool tells FastCoexist.com. "They're either sent to a landfill–burning them isn't a very good option for them–or they're rendered down to make certain kinds of animal feed, because the current protein can have some food value."
Conventional leather production requires the use of chemicals and heavy metals that can cause severe public health problems, including cancer and respiratory diseases. And while the fashion industry has attracted negative attention for clinging to use of furs, it has largely evaded responsibility for clinging to leather as a material.
Wool has already worked on developing prototypes of new Eco-leather sneakers with Nike and Puma, so hopefully you'll one day be able to purchase shoes made from this material in any department store.