Upcycled keratin coming to the beauty ingredient market from a not-so-glamorous source

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ Erich Sacco
© Getty Images \ Erich Sacco

Related tags Keratin waste ingredients Waste upcycled ingredients

Tomorrow Water, a California-based water treatment company, has just received funding to optimize a new technology that uses only water, heat, and pressure to extract keratan from packing house waste and livestock carcasses.

The new is known as Draco thermal hydrolysis. And it was developed by Dr Ken Tasaki, VP of Business Development at Tomorrow Water.

In 2019, the company published an article titled ‘A novel thermal hydrolysis process for extraction of keratin from hog hair for commercial applications’​ in Elesevier’s journal of Waste Management detailing the process.

Turning animal waste into ingredients for skin care, hair care, and nail care

This month, Tomorrow Water secured a grant from the USDA to improve the process in advance of scaling it up for commercial use. In his recent remarks to the press Dr Tasaki calls Draco thermal hydrolysis “a truly eco-friendly and cost-efficient solution to convert a significant waste stream – animal rendering waste – into a substantial profit stream.”

“Innovative new processes like ours,” ​he says “are crucial to the success of the global push toward a 'circular economy,' wherein waste is minimized and valuable resources are recycled.”

According to Tomorrow Water, “The global livestock industry creates billion of tons of waste every year. While carcasses, offal and bones can be converted into useful products at rendering plants, millions of tons of feathers, nails, hair, and wool end up in landfills. This discarded waste slowly decays in landfills to produce vast amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases.”

It is this waste—the , millions of tons of feathers, nails, hair, and wool—that contains the keratin that Tomorrow Water is aiming to extract and resell in the beauty ingredient marketplace.

The dollars and the technology behind a new keratin source

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through its Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) granted $100,000 to Tomorrow Water to fund what the company is calling Phase I, essentially working to improve the Draco technology and effectively pair it with Tomorrow Water’s existing FMX tech, which will be used to “[separate] the keratin from the Draco-treated animal waste slurry” ​and purify it. The process reportedly preserves much of keratan’s chemical structure.

“Make no mistake – keratin is valuable,” ​says Tasaki, “with some estimates placing it easily over $1,700 USD per kilogram depending on the final end product.”

“I am very proud of our team for what they have accomplished with this technology, which has been in the works for over four years,” ​he says, adding that, “Now it's time to accelerate its development and get it out into the world.”

Phase II funding, which Tomorrow Water plans to apply to the USDA SBIR program for as well would come in the amount of $600,000 and would go toward scaling up the keratin extraction and purification process and prototyping commercial scale application in the field.

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