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  • Sustainability

Making an eco-friendly plastic from fish waste

This biodegradable plastic alternative made from fish waste was developed as a final year university project.

The world's oceans are suffering from plastic pollution, and plastic has a massive detrimental effect on marine environments and sea creatures. The development of a biodegradable plastic is a game-changer in the battle against plastic waste.

Sussex University student Lucy Hughes was in her final year of a product design degree when she developed a biodegradable plastic, MarinaTex, using fish waste and algae.

Why is MarinaTex better for the environment?

Lucy wanted to find an engineering solution to the problem of the ocean suffering from plastic pollution. The project is based on the idea that less plastic will enter the ocean if we move to biodegradable plastic alternatives, and any plastic that does get there, can’t damage the ocean life as it is made from natural marine ingredients.

Meet the product designer

Lucy says she loves the ocean, lives by it, dives in it and wants to protect it. She started a project to find value in waste products and this led to looking at a fish processing plant and the waste produced. Creating something out of a waste product that was compostable and biodegradable felt right, she says. "I started experimenting with fish scales and algae and I fell down a rabbit hole learning about proteins. I ended up creating a plastic-like material similar to the plastic found in supermarket bags. I didn’t mean to invent a plastic but combining engineering and product design created a new solution."


How can engineering feed in to a circular economy?

Lucy saw a tension between a potential career based on creating more products, and living in a world where too many things are made and thrown away. A lecturer introduced her to the idea of the circular economy and making products out of waste. From there, she was on track to finding the tools to create positive products.

Next steps

Lucy says her next step is to make my biodegradable plastic on a large scale. "Regular plastic has had a 100-year head start in production, but I know that we need to find solutions to plastic pollution straight away and I am ready."


Project goal
Develop an eco friendly plastic made from organic waste materials which will decompose in 4-6 weeks
The engineering
Using fish waste and red algae to create an odourless biodegradable plastic

"Regular plastic has had a 100-year head start in production, but I know that we need to find solutions to plastic pollution straight away and I am ready"

— Lucy Hughes, product designer

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Inspecting MarinaTex

Product designer diving in the ocean

Lucy wants to protect the ocean

 Female product designers discussing biodegradable plastic alternative

Colleagues inspecting MarinaTex

Lucy Hughes, femail product designer

Lucy Hughes - ocean protector

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