Turning the tide: UK designer turns fish waste into alt-plastic

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva


Plastic has been filling our oceans at an overwhelming rate – somewhere between 4.8 and 12.7 tonnes yearly. Lucy Hughes, a product design graduate from the University of Sussex, decided to turn the tide and develop a fully compostable plastic alternative from fish waste.  

Dubbed MarinaTex, the plastic alternative looks and feels like plastic but is actually made from the scales and skin of fish, bound by red algae. 

Hughes says the bioplastic is strong, translucent, flexible, and with its biodegradable and home compostable qualities, could be “part of a global answer” to the single-user plastic problem.

She explained she wanted to create something that uses a waste stream, which led her to discover the impact of the UK’s fishing industry, where an estimated 500,000 tonnes of fish scales and skin removed during production each year usually end up incinerated or buried. 

After running more than 100 experiments to refine the bioplastic mixture, MarinaTex was born.

The material requires low energy to make and boasts a higher tensile strength than traditional plastic made from LDPE (low-density polyethylene). It can also break down easily in home food waste or compost bins, as its primary material is made from fish.

According to Hughes, waste from one Atlantic cod is enough to produce 1400 bags, and with the amount of fish waste produced annually, it is possible that bioplastic could be scaled into industrial production. 

MarinaTex’s won a James Dyson Award in 2019.

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.