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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The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), a state authority created by the Virginia General Assembly to better serve those seeking a prime business location and increased trade opportunities, provides confidential site selection and international trade services. VEDP's mission: To enhance the quality of life and raise the standard of living for all Virginians, in collaboration with Virginia communities, through aggressive business recruitment, expansion assistance, and trade development, thereby expanding the tax base and creating higher-income employment opportunities.

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UBED—Economic Gardening: William & Mary Incubates Growing Businesses

Thursday, 7 June 2012 10:01 by Info@YesVirginia.org
“William & Mary (W&M) is looking at how to grow what’s already in Virginia, as well as to help bring companies into the Commonwealth,” said Leonard Sledge, William & Mary’s Director of Economic Development...

As promised, VEDP is delving into UBED (University-Based Economic Development) in our institutions of higher learning across the Commonwealth.

“William & Mary (W&M) is looking at how to grow what’s already in Virginia, as well as to help bring companies into the Commonwealth,” said Leonard Sledge, William & Mary’s Director of Economic Development.

To that end, W&M’s Technology and Business Center has partnered with the county to run the James City County Business & Technology Incubator (JCC-BTI). The incubator provides support and advisory services to help accelerate the growth of younger companies. This support includes help setting goals and milestones, general business advice, organizational guidance, networking events, assistance locating financing and other service providers, and the use of a professional business facility.

The incubator also liaises with W&M’s Mason School of Business and Entrepreneurship Center. Business school professors are assigned to each incubator company to help determine strategy. Business school students are also engaged in problem-solving initiatives for incubator companies through project and classroom exercises.

Launched in January 2007, the JCC-BTI has worked with 10 companies, graduating three to date. One such graduate is MODU System, a Malaysian manufacturer of conveyor belt systems. The incubator helped the company enter the U.S. market, advising management on how to position the product and locate resellers in the U.S.

Another success story is Breathe Healthy, a manufacturer of antimicrobial face masks with superior comfort and filtering abilities. JCC-BTI helped the veteran-owned company locate key markets for its product, as well as launch international sales.

According to William Bean, Director of W&M’s Technology Business Center, “We’re looking for companies that are passionate and serious about the growth of their business. Our incubator clients span a variety of industries, but the one thing they have in common is a genuine excitement to use the services of our incubator for accelerating growth.”

To learn more about W&M’s Office of Economic Development or the James City County Business & Technology Incubator, click on the highlighted links.

Mail America Expands in Bedford County, Virginia

Monday, 4 June 2012 13:31 by Info@YesVirginia.org

On Tuesday, advertising company Mail America announced plans to expand operations in Bedford County through a $5 million investment. The company will maintain its current facility while adding another 42,000 square feet through a nearby location.

This expansion will create 75 new jobs over the next three years as the company seeks to hire print and mail insertion operators, maintenance staff and administrative personnel to help meet growing customer demand.

Producing nearly 400 million U.S. mail pieces each year, Mail America has operated in Bedford County since 1989 and currently employs 325 Virginians. The company’s positive experience with the region’s skilled and motivated workforce was a major deciding factor for this project.

Virginia’s competitive operative costs and pro-business environment also influenced the company’s decision to expand in the Commonwealth. According to Virginia Delegate Kathy Byron, “Our region continues to demonstrate that it is an ideal place for businesses to grow and to locate. The attributes we have here—reasonable taxes and regulations, a skilled and talented workforce, and welcoming state and local governments that are ready to work as partners—are instrumental to the success of firms like Mail America.”

This is the second expansion Bedford County has seen this year. Forestry Equipment of Virginia announced plans to expand its truck assembly business earlier in March. Both companies received assistance from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission for their expansions.

To learn why companies continue to find success in the Commonwealth and why Virginia is ranked America’s Top State for Business, click here.

UBED — Virginia Tech Leverages Alumni Network to Develop Cyber Security Solutions

Thursday, 31 May 2012 10:51 by Info@YesVirginia.org