A bioplastic made of organic fish waste that would otherwise end up in landfill – with the potential to replace plastic in food and drink packaging – has landed its UK designer a prestigious international award and £30,000 prize.
Hughes sought to tackle the problems of environmentally harmful single-use plastics and inefficient waste streams by harnessing fish offcuts to create an eco-friendly plastic alternative. Global figures estimate that 40% of plastic produced for packaging is used once and discarded.
The annual award scheme is run by the James Dyson Foundation, designer Sir James Dyson’s charitable trust. It challenges young people to “design something that solves a problem” and is open to students and recent graduates in product design, industrial design and engineering.
Dyson said: “Young engineers have the passion, awareness and intelligence to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Ultimately, we decided to pick the idea the world could least do without. MarinaTex elegantly solves two problems: the ubiquity of single-use plastic and fish waste.”
The winning product is translucent and strong, making it suitable for single-use packaging such as sandwich wrappers and bags, and will break down in home compost or food waste bins within four to six weeks.
Hughes said: “Plastic is an amazing material and as a result, we have become too reliant on it. It makes no sense that we’re using plastic for products that have a life cycle of less than a day. I’m excited to have the chance to undertake further research and development to explore all possible uses.”
Another UK entrant is one of the two runners-up: Anna Bernbaum, of the Dyson Engineering School, Imperial College, London, whose AI-enabled wearable device can help monitor asthmatic symptoms and predict triggers. Over time, the data harvested by her product Afflo can be reviewed by medical professionals remotely to refine treatment plans.
The other runner-up is Ryan Tilley of RMIT University in Melbourne for his Gecko Traxx, a portable manual wheelchair accessory that gives users access to beaches by stopping wheels from sinking into the sand. The simple clip can be used by those with limited dexterity to help fit special tyres to their wheelchair without having to get out.
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