The 2019 UK winner of the James Dyson Award has been announced. The tech, picked by three judges including myself, was whittled down from over 135 entries from students across the UK submitted to Dyson.
The winner this year is University of Sussex graduate Lucy Hughes for her innovating MarinaTex material.
A bioplastic made of organic fish waste ordinarily destined for landfill or incineration and locally sourced red algae, the new material will look and feel like plastic, but is actually stronger, safer, and much more sustainable than its counterpart.
But where the success, in terms of the environment, really shows through, is that the material biodegrades after four to six weeks.
Frustrated by the pointless uses of single-use plastic - the average usage time of a plastic bag is 10 minutes - Hughes challenged herself to find a sustainable alternative derived from an existing waste stream, fish offcuts.
Already in prototyping stages, Hughes hopes the new material will replace things like baked goods bags in supermarkets and the see-thru cellophane on sandwich boxes amongst other things.
"Plastic is an amazing material, and as a result, we have become too reliant on it as designers and engineers. It makes no sense to me that we’re using plastic, an incredibly durable material, for products that have a life-cycle of less than a day," explains the winner. "For me, MarinaTex represents a commitment to material innovation and selection by incorporating sustainable, local and circular values into design. As creators, we should not limit ourselves to designing to just form and function, but rather form, function and footprint."
As national winner of the James Dyson Award, Hughes will receive £2,000 as well as moving on to the international round of the competition, for a chance to win £30,000.
The panel, which also included James Roberts, previous JDA international winner 2014 for his invention mOm, and Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering and Education at The Royal Academy of Engineering, picked two runners up. Afflo, a device that helped asthma sufferers and the SunUp Solar Backpack, a backpack that includes an innovative solar panel to recharge it.