Graduate claims Dyson award with fish scale plastic

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A University of Sussex graduate has claimed this year’s UK James Dyson award with a biodegradable plastic.

Lucy Hughes created a composite alternative to single-use plastic with a combination of fish skin and scales. Agar, a gelatinous substance taken from the cell walls of red algae, acts as an organic bonding agent

The plastic is translucent and flexible, making it the perfect material to use as a carrier bag or some other kind of packaging. Using this type of plastic, named ‘MarinaTex’, has a number of environmental benefits.

Once thrown away, the material will decompose within 4-6 weeks if left in a home compost or food-waste bin. As it is produced from waste, it only take a low-energy process to be made and it won’t use up the world’s natural resources. Also, a separate waste collection infrastructure would not need to be established in order to dispose of the product.

“For me a good design is something that bridges the gap between behaviours, business and our planet,” said Hughes.

While Hughes says that the waste from one Atlantic cod is enough for the production of 1400 MarinaTex plastic bags, the UK Sea Fish Authority says that the fish procession in the United Kingdom is the cause of 500,000 tonnes of waste every year.

MarinaTex has been found to have a higher tensile strength than low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is what most plastic bags ins made from. Hughes believes that "this shows that the sustainable option does not sacrifice quality.”

The annual James Dyson Award celebrate the best inventions from engineering and design graduates on a global level.

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