Bioplastic Made of Organic Fish Waste is Award Winner


January 1, 2020

University of Sussex student Lucy Hughes has won an award for the creation of MarinaTex, a biodegradable replacement for plastic made of scales and fish skin. Photo courtesy of the University of Sussex.

A university student's attempt to solve the problem of single-use plastics and fish wastes has won her the James Dyson Award for creation of a unique plastic alternative.

Lucy Hughes, a student of product design at the University of Sussex, created MarinaTex, a biodegradable material made of scales and fish skin that would ordinarily wind up in a landfill.

The award, announced in mid-November by the James Dyson Foundation, beat out 1,078 entrants from 28 countries. "Young engineers have the passion, awareness and intelligence to solve some of the world's biggest problems," said James Dyson, the British inventor and contest founder, in a news release.

MarinaTex is a translucent and flexible sheet material, which makes it ideal for applications in single-use packaging. While it may look and feel like plastic, its similarities end there, the foundation notes, and "in fact, it is stronger, safer and much more sustainable than its oil-based counterpart."

With a unique formula of red algae to bind the proteins extracted from fish waste, MarinaTex has strong overlapping bonds that give it strength and flexibility, and it biodegrades after four to six weeks, making it suitable for home composting, the foundation said.

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According to Hughes, one Atlantic cod could generate as much organic waste as is needed to produce 1,400 bags of MarinaTex.

"Plastic is an amazing material, but we're too reliant on it as designers and engineers" Hughes said. "It makes no sense to me that we're using plastic, an incredibly durable material, for products that have a life cycle of less than a day. For me, MarinaTex represents a real commitment to innovating plastic use and incorporating sustainable, local and circular values into produce design."

As the national winner of the James Dyson Award, Hughes will receive 2,000 pounds ($2,581.76 in US dollars) and move into international competition, with a chance to win 30,000 pounds ($38,726.40 in US dollars).

Hughes said she plans to commercialize her invention, using her award money for further research into how MarinaTex can become a global answer to the abundance of plastic waste.


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