A solution in scale


Product design student Lucy Hughes has invented a bioplastic created from fish skin and scales and red algae which could have help to limit the amount of non-biodegradable plastic waste created in the world.

sThe fully biodegradable and compostable material, called Marinatex, has been designed as an environmentally-responsible replacement for plastic film currently used in a whole host of packaging including sandwich boxes.

It can biodegrade in a soil environment in less than a month and can be disposed of through ordinary food waste collections.

Lucy, a fourth year product design undergraduate student at the University of Sussex, said: "It makes no sense to me that we are using plastic, an incredibly durable material, for products that have a lifecycle of less than a day. And I'm not alone, there is a growing community of bioplastic pioneers that are working towards finding alternatives to our dependency on plastic.
“With Marinatex, we are transforming a waste stream into the main component of a new product. By doing so, we have created a consistent, transparent and 'plastic-like' material with a more planet-friendly and product appropriate lifecycle for packaging."

The 23-year-old student from Twickenham developed her idea following a visit to Newhaven-based sustainable fishing company MCB Seafoods Ltd.

Seeing first-hand the organic waste material from the fishing industry, she identified the potential in the material, in reliable and plentiful supply, which when combined with a biopolymer such as red algae created an extremely effective plastic substitute.

Lucy said: “Algae bioplastics are becoming more common, but the issue I faced during development was that the sheets I made without the fish waste seemed to revert back into a crinkled seaweed shape. I needed to find a material that would make the formula more consistent. I challenged myself to find a material that was from a local waste stream. My initial experiments involved other types of fish waste such as mussel shells and crustacean skeletons before settling on fish waste. The result was a locally sourced sea-based solution."

A recent study has revealed that some bioplastics, such as PLA made from fermented corn starch, have not lived up to claims of being compostable or biodegradable – remaining intact after more than three years.
Marinatex degrades in a tiny fraction of that time, and is also cheaper to produce and does not require an entirely new recycling scheme for disposal.


Image: Product design student Lucy Hughes has invented a bioplastic created from fish skin and scales and red algae.