Bio-plastic made from fish scales wins U.K. James Dyson award
Bio-plastics could prove to be a suitable alternative to single-use plastics.
- The flexible bio-plastic, called MarinaTex, breaks down within about four to six weeks.
- One Atlantic cod contains enough waste to produce hundreds of MarinaTex bags.
- More than half of single-use plastics end up in the world's oceans.
Single-use plastics — among them, straws, cutlery, shopping and sandwich bags — are small, but they have a huge impact on the environment. The vast majority of these plastics end up in landfills or the ocean, where they can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.
And when you consider that the world consumes about 1 million plastic bottles per minute, the implications of plastics consumption are pretty staggering.
To help offset these environmental costs, University of Sussex graduate Lucy Hughes recently used fish waste to create a compostable alternative to single-use plastic. The translucent material, called MarinaTex, is made from fish scales and skin – materials that break down in food-waste bins within about four to six weeks. MarinaTex is also flexible and durable, showing a higher tensile strength than LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which is the most commonly used material in single-use plastic bags.
"This shows that the sustainable option does not sacrifice quality," said Hughes, who won this year's U.K. James Dyson Award, a prize that promotes young British designers and engineers.
Hughes conducted more than 100 experiments to devise her final design, which uses agar, a gelatinous substance found in the cell walls of red algae, as a binding agent. One Atlantic cod contains enough waste to produce 477 MarinaTex bags, according to Hughes.
"I didn't want to use virgin natural materials so I challenged myself with starting with a waste stream," Hughes said. "For me a good design is something that bridges the gap between behaviors, business and our planet."
Hughes said many people have a disconnect about the world's oceans.
"When you see bits of rubbish in the ocean, or when you see that environment be sort of soiled by waste, it's kind of an eye-opener."
Hughes was awarded about $2,500 for winning the national contest, and she's in the running to win the international award. Last year's winners were Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, who created the O-Wind Turbine.
Reducing waste from single-use plastics has recently become more of an environmental priority for individuals (the no-straw movement) and governments alike. In August, India announced plans to soon ban six single-use plastic products: bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and types of sachet. The move, which is the nation's most sweeping plastics regulation to date, is expected to reduce India's plastic consumption by 5 to 10 percent.
The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.
- America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
- While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
- Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Researchers present what they’ve learned now that they can read the tiny text inside the Antikythera mechanism.
Though it it seemed to be just a corroded lump of some sort when it was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece near Antikythera in 1900, in 1902 archaeologist Valerios Stais, looking at the gear embedded in it, guessed that what we now call the “Antikythera mechanism" was some kind of astronomy-based clock. He was in the minority—most agreed that something so sophisticated must have entered the wreck long after its other 2,000-year-old artifacts. Nothing like it was believed to have existed until 1,500 years later.
The institutional barriers that have often held creative teaching back are being knocked down by the coronavirus era.
- Long-held structures in the education system, like classroom confines and schedules, have held back innovation for a long time, says education leader Richard Culatta.
- In the coronavirus era, we have been able to shake some of those rigid structures loose, making way for creativity and, ultimately, a more open mindset.
- When creativity and technology combine, learning can become so much more than delivering content to a student. Culatta gives two stunning examples: one of a biotech class, and another involving a student discovering a star.
We'd like to think that judging people's worth based on the shape of their head is a practice that's behind us.
'Phrenology' has an old-fashioned ring to it. It sounds like it belongs in a history book, filed somewhere between bloodletting and velocipedes.
Maybe you've been wondering if you're seeing one persistent squirrel or a rotating cast of characters.