Elena Dieckmann (Aeropowder)
Award: March's Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award
According to the British Poultry Council, around 900 million chickens are slaughtered each year by the poultry industry, producing 2,000 tonnes of feather waste per week.1 Most of the feathers end up in landfill, or go through an energy-intensive process to be made into animal feed. But can this waste product be used more sustainably?
Aeropowder believes the answer is yes. Founded in December 2015 the company is creating a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly insulation for homes, composed almost entirely of waste feathers.
As part of her research into potential uses for feather waste, design engineering student and co-founder of Aeropowder, Elena Dieckmann, ordered a 10kg box of excess feathers from about 70 chickens. At first, she had no idea what they might be used for, but soon the answer became obvious.
“We thought about what feathers are good for, which is mainly protecting chickens and birds from water and the cold,” says Elena. “In the same way, we realised we could use the properties of feathers to insulate our homes. Nature had already designed the perfect solution for sustainable insulation!”
According to the Energy Saving Trust, an uninsulated home experiences 66% heat loss through solid walls, which can be detrimental to people’s health and costs consumers money. Aeropowder’s product, FeatherFill, is a sustainable alternative to polyurethane foam in boards that are commonly used for home insulation. According to Elena, FeatherFill not only has similar heat-retention qualities to current insulation materials, but the cost is 14 times lower.
Given the UK’s housing stock is some of the most poorly insulated in the developed world, with side effects costing the NHS an estimated £1.36 billion every year2, Aeropowder’s product has the potential to make a big impact. Long-term, Elena and her team will be focusing on testing FeatherFill further, with a view to bring it to market.
Elena Dieckmann and Ryan Robinson of Aeropowder.
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