That plastic take-out container from today’s lunch, the disposable pens at your desk, and the bottle from the water you bought the other day will be around for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Despite the promise of bioplastics (derived from such unlikely sources as corn, algae, castor beans, and chicken feathers), we have yet to hit upon a cheap, durable, and versatile alternative petroleum-based plastic. The latest bid to save the planet from plastic overload comes from a recent Royal College of Art grad, who has invented a new material out of fish scales. Fish. Scales.
Erik de Laurens was inspired by the vast amount of scales cavalierly discarded by the European fish industry. “In other parts of the world such as Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Cameroon, [fish scales] are sold by the ton,” de Laurens tells Co.Design. (In those countries, they’re used to produce collagen, for cosmetics, and gelatin.) Since there’s no such industry in London, the design student sourced his from a local fishmonger in Brixton. He then washed and dyed them before pressing them into drinking beakers, eyeglasses, and swimming goggles (a poetic application, we think).
De Laurens likens the durability of the fish-scale plastic to bone or horn, even without the use of binding agents. Although biodegradable and compostable, “it can last forever if properly looked after.” And since it is heatproof and fire-retardant,? de Laurens imagines it could be suitable in building applications. For the moment, he’s looking for funding to investigate methods for bringing down production costs.