Sussex graduate wins UK Dyson Award with fish bioplastic

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Lucy Hughes from the University of Sussex has won the 2019 UK Dyson Award for her marine bioplastic made from fish waste and agar.

MarinaTex looks and feels like clear plastic but is produced at temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius and biodegrades between four and six weeks. Nearly half of the five million tonnes of plastic used in the UK each year comes from packaging. Lucy hopes MarinaTex can replace some of this single-use plastic while also finding a stream for the half a million tonnes of fish waste produced in the country annually.

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dyson award 2019

“Plastic is an amazing material, and as a result, we have become too reliant on it as designers and engineers,” said 23-year-old Lucy, who developed MarinaTex during her final year of Product Design at Sussex. “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. As creators, we should not limit ourselves to designing to just form and function, but rather form, function and footprint.”

It took over 100 different experiments to refine the material and process, most of which Lucy did on the kitchen stove of her student accommodation. She finally created a consistent and plastic-like material that was biodegradable and translucent. According to Lucy, one Atlantic cod could generate enough organic waste to produce 1,400 bags of MarinaTex. Due to its relatively short shelf life, the material would be a particularly good replacement for things like single use plastic bags and fresh food packaging.

As national winner of the Dyson Award 2019, Lucy will receive £2,000 as well as moving on to the international round of the competition for a chance to win £30,000. Lucy aims to commercialise her invention sustainably, using her award money for further research into how MarinaTex can become a global answer to the abundance of plastic waste.