Brighton graduate wins £30,000 global design award for plastic alternative made of fish waste

Lucy Hughes, inventor of MarinaTex. Photograph: Stuart Robinson/ The University of Sussex
Lucy Hughes, inventor of MarinaTex. Photograph: Stuart Robinson/ The University of Sussex

A University of Sussex graduate has won a global award for creating a home-compostable plastic alternative out of marine waste.

Product design alumna Lucy Hughes has today (Thursday, November 14) been announced as the overall winner of the James Dyson Award for her invention MarinaTex – a translucent and flexible sheet material made of fish offcuts and red algae that could be used for a range of single-use packaging.

Lucy Hughes, inventor of MarinaTex. Photograph: Stuart Robinson/ The University of Sussex

Lucy Hughes, inventor of MarinaTex. Photograph: Stuart Robinson/ The University of Sussex

The Brighton-based 24-year-old, from Twickenham, has beaten entrants from 27 countries to win the prize and will receive £30,000.

She has also won the product design department at The University of Sussex, in Falmer, £5,000.

Hughes said: “I’m so delighted that MarinaTex has been recognised by the James Dyson Award.

“The invention is still in its infancy and I never thought it would make it to this stage, so it’s really encouraging to have the potential of the material acknowledged by such a prestigious award.

“I’m excited to now have the chance to undertake further research and development to explore all of the possible uses of MarinaTex, taking into account form, function and its footprint.”

Hughes developed MarinaTex for the final-year project of her undergraduate degree.

It is the result of more than 100 prototype tests carried out mainly on the kitchen stove of her student flat and biodegrades after four to six weeks.

The James Dyson Award, now in its 15th year and run by the James Dyson Foundation, is open to any university-level student of product design, industrial design or engineering, or graduate within four years of graduation.

In September, Hughes was announced as the winner of the UK phase of the award, then taking home £2,000.

Dyson’s founder Sir James Dyson judged the international round of the competition.

He said: “Young engineers have the passion, awareness and intelligence to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

“The James Dyson Award received some thought-provoking ideas this year – and more female entrants than ever – making the judging very difficult.

“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.

“Further research and development will ensure that MarinaTex evolves further, and I hope it becomes part of a global answer to the abundance of single-use plastic waste.”