Parameters for composting tannery hair waste

Arthur Onyuka, Margaret P Bates, Geoff E Attenburrow, Anthony D Covington, A Paula M Antunes

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Solid hair waste is generated by the leather industry as a by-product of the leather manufacturing process. Keratin, the main structural constituent of hair proteins, is highly resistant to degradation and their disposal is of environmental concern. The aim of this study was to develop conditions favorable for the degradation of bovine hair in a composting environment as an environmentally friendly option for the management of solid tannery hair waste. The thermophilic optimum temperature, 40 – 50C, moisture content 55%, pH 7.0 and a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 35:1 were found to be favorable to sustain metabolic functions of thermophilic microbial flora, responsible for degrading keratins. The biodegradation and structural transformation of the substrate was assessed using scanning electron microscopy. The results show that under these conditions the bovine hair lost most of its integral structural stability and that the cuticular components were more resistant to degradation. The compost stability as evaluated by monitoring the degree of humification and carbon to nitrogen ratio indicated that the final product achieved reasonable stability by attaining 73% degree of humification, 26% humification rate and carbon to nitrogen ratio of 29:1. Hence the composting technology used in this study has potential application in the leather industry for the production of an economically viable product
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)159-166
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Leather Chemists Association
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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