Single-use plastics are a growing problem for our planet, but they have also become a mainstay for people around the world. How can we replace the plastic bags, wrappers and more that plague us? One student has come up with a novel plastic alternative that also happens to avoid the use of virgin materials. This innovative bioplastic is made with materials otherwise destined for disposal — fish parts.

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rolled up bioplastic film

Lucy Hughes, a product design student at The University of Sussex, aimed to source materials from the waste stream when she began working on her senior project. With guidance from a tutor, Hughes discovered a fish processing plant called MCB Seafoods, where she took a tour to learn more. During that experience, Hughes learned about the discarded remnants of fish processing including offal, blood, crustacean and shellfish exoskeletons and fish skins and scales. She got to work right away to figure out how she could turn this waste into something useful.

Related: WĀKE LifeProof phone cases use recycled ocean-bound waste

person applying bioplastic tape to a box

The result is MarinaTex, a bioplastic film made primarily from fish scales and skins and bound with an organic binder. Creating MarinaTex required a lot of trial and error, but the result is more than a polymer; MarinaTex is biodegradable plastic sheeting that is versatile and naturally decomposes in 4 to 6 weeks in a home compost environment.

sandwich box with bioplastic film

It required over 100 different experiments to get the right combination before Hughes entered the product into a competition and won the 2019 International James Dyson Award for her efforts. 

cardboard tissue box with bioplastic lining around the tissues

MarinaTex is best suited for single-use applications such as wrapping sandwiches, replacing the little plastic sheeting around the opening in tissue boxes or substituting for the plastic, transparent window in artisan bread loaf bags. Claiming to be stronger than mainstream LDPE, MarinaTex can also become a durable, biodegradable alternative to plastic bags. According to the website, “The organic formula does not leach harmful chemicals and can be consumed, causing no harm to wildlife or humans.”

small green apple in a bioplastic bag

MarinaTex is currently still in development and not yet in the marketplace for order. However, if you’d like to keep up with the progress, you can receive updates via email newsletter.

+ MarinaTex

Images via MarinaTex