MarinaTex material in sheet form
172,207 tonnes of fish waste is produced by fish processing annually in the UK
Protein yield infographic
Failed experiment whilst tweaking formula
MarinaTex used as a carrier bag
What it does
MarinaTex is made from waste fish and can be used instead of plastic film. It is translucent and stronger than LDPE at the same thickness, making it the ideal home-compostable alternative to plastic packaging windows including: bakery bags & sandwich packs.
After hearing statistics such as "by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight," solving this problem became a priority. In particular, badly used plastic and single-use plastic applications. Plastic is an amazing material, however we have become too plastic happy and design only for the use of the product, which can sometimes be a fraction of the products overall lifespan. However, my journey did not start with the plastic problem. It began by looking into the fishing industry. 50 million tonnes of waste is produced annually by the global industry. I believed that there is value in waste and resources can be renewable.
How it works
MarinaTex is a translucent and flexible sheet material made from all natural ingredients. It does not require special infrastructure to dispose of and can biodegrade naturally in 4-6 weeks. This makes it ideal for applications in packaging. To the touch, MarinaTex feels a lot like plastic, but the similarities end there. In fact, it is stronger, safer and much more sustainable than its doppelgänger. The material is relatively low tech and does not require much energy to produce. The whole production process uses temperatures below 100 degrees. As the material uses waste from the fishing industry, this helps to close the loop for a more circular design.
The process began at a local fish processing plant and wholesaler. I went there with the intention of identifying their waste streams to see if I could add value to the waste and keep it from landfill. The waste identified varied from offal, blood, crustacean & shellfish exoskeletons and fish skins & scales. From these different wastes I needed to first understand the composition and potential of each waste. After researching the waste streams, I found that the fish skins and scales had the most potential locked up in them due to their flexibility and strength enabling proteins. Simultaneously I was looking into organic binders and discovered the growing bioplastic movement/community. By utilising open source resources I began experimenting with different organic binders from the sea including chitosan (from crustaceans) and agar (from red algae). I wanted the binder to be from the sea to keep the solution localised thus reducing transportation. It took over 100 different experiments to refine the material and process. Once this produced a constant and plastic-like outcome, I then looked into best applications. As the material is biodegradable and translucent, the most impactful alternative applications were single-use plastics like that of the bakery bag and sandwich packet.
How it is different
MarinaTex is unique for multiple reasons. Compared to its main competitor plastic, MarinaTex can fully biodegrade in home food recycling bins or home composts without leaching toxic chemicals into the environment. Another competitor is PLA bioplastics. These bioplastics can only be composted in specialised industrial facilities and have been contaminating mainstream facilities resulting in compostable waste being sent to landfill. MarinaTex will not contaminate these facilities due to different chemical structure. Another unique feature about the material is that it is part comprised from a waste stream. This reduces strain on resources and diverts waste from landfill. It is also part comprised of a sea plant. This crop does not need fresh water or fertilisers to grow and locks in carbon. Furthermore the material has been shown to have a higher tensile strength than LDPE at the same thickness, this shows that the sustainable option does not sacrifice quality.
Further steps include: Gaining funding, more research into mass manufacturing, development of business plan, full legal protection of material & process, more research into material performance under different conditions, acquirement of more precise equipment for tweaking formula, development of website and acquisition of certifications e.g. food grade safe, allergies, biodegradability, nutritional value (material is edible). I hope that this material could be a viable alternative to plastic in various applications. This means that the production costs would be low and the production could be applied globally whilst remaining sustainable.
Best Circular Economy Design, Sussex Design Show- Winner John Lewis Loves, New Designers - Recognition Creative Conscious Award, New Designers- Nomination