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Plastic made from marine waste wins UK James Dyson Award 2019

A plastic alternative made using the by-products of the fishing industry has been awarded the UK national James Dyson Award for 2019.

MarinaTex, designed and developed by product design student Lucy Hughes, looks to solve the crisis of single-use plastic, while also eliminating waste by-products created by fishing industries.

Current behaviour in the UK produces around five million tonnes of plastic each year, nearly half of which is packaging, while fishing produces another 492,020 tonnes of waste.

Hughes’ material is made from products that would otherwise be sent to landfill, namely fish skins and scales. From her research, she found these to be rich in the proteins necessary to create a flexible and translucent plastic alternative.

Traditional plastic requires high temperatures and fossil fuels and can take over 1000 years to break down. MarinaTex however, can be made with temperatures under 100 degrees and takes four to six weeks to biodegrade.

“Plastic is an amazing material, and as a result we have become too reliant on it,” says Hughes. The search to find plastic alternatives is a pressing one, not least because of the up to 12.7 million tonnes which ends up as ocean pollution.

Back in 2017, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched a $2 million (£1.4 million) prize to find alternatives that wouldn’t go on to pollute the ocean as traditional plastic does now.

“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,” Hughes says.

“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.”

By winning the UK round of the competition, Hughes has won £2,000 which will be used to further develop MarinaTex. She will also advance to the international stage of the competition, with the chance to win £30,000 for the design.

Past recipients of the James Dyson Award have covered a diverse range of humanitarian and environmental issues. 2017’s winner, Petit Pli designed by Ryan Yasin, focused on the waste produced by the children’s clothing industry. 2014’s winner, the mOm incubator designed by James Roberts, addressed the issue of deaths from premature births in developing countries.