A university student’s attempt to solve the problem of single-use plastics and fish wastes has won her the international James Dyson Award for the creation of a unique alternative.
Lucy Hughes, a product design student at the University of Sussex, created MarinaTex, a biodegradable material made of scales and fish skin that would ordinarily wind up in a landfill.
To claim the award, Hugues bested 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.
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, and as a result, we have become 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 commitment to material innovation and selection by incorporating sustainable, local and circular values into design.”
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.
The James Dyson Foundation released the winner information on November 13, 2019.