Solutions to tackling waste plastic were the focus of four eco-inventors who went head to head at Plus X Brighton Disruptors finals last night [November 12] at Untapped Brewery in Brighton.
Twenty-four-year-old Lucy Hughes won the hearts and minds of both the judges and audience for her home compostable alternative to single-use plastic film and bags, using waste material from the fishing industry, offering hope that there is a solution to the problem of plastic food packaging waste.
Graduating with a Product Design BSc from Sussex University in July, Lucy is now setting up a company to produce her eco-invention MarinaTex, extracting the proteins from the skins and scales left from fishing, creating a transparent flexible film which can be used instead of plastic food packaging.
Her prize will be six months work space at Plus X Brighton when it opens at Preston Barracks in January, with mentoring support and the opportunity to develop and take her product forward to production.
“It’s amazing, I really didn’t expect to win against so many other great companies, all with such conscientious goals. It will make all the difference, having the mentorship and someone to hold my hand through the scary world of start up,” said Lucy Hughes.
“I have the chance to create a game-changing disruptive material and I’d love to see it provide a genuinely sustainable alternative to plastic.”
Just 24 hours later, she went on to win the International James Dyson award, including a £30,000 to help her develop the product further.
Head of the Judging Panel, Mat Hunter, co-CEO of Plus X, said, “All our finalists’ ideas were very strong and diverse, including novel materials, creating a circular economy and providing service-based solutions.
“Lucy won because she gave a fantastic pitch – articulate and comprehensive – she comes across as a competent, fast moving founder for a product which has huge consumer demand. She gave us all hope that her sustainable plastic alternative has the potential to make a global environmental impact.”
In second place, were Brighton women Ella Baker (23) and Hollie Sanglier (26), who launched their company Soaked only 11 weeks ago, to cut down on single-use plastic bottles of bathroom products.
They wanted to address the fact that Brighton’s recycling service only recycles plastic bottles, so even when people carefully sort their plastic waste, most of it is incinerated. In response, they have created aesthetically pleasing, minimalist bottles designed to last a life time, supported by refill pouches of shampoo, conditioner and soap, which can be sent back to them for chemical recycling after use.
Said Hollie Sanglier, “The process of chemical recycling can be very quick, allowing plastic to be used over and over again with no limits and no waste. We want to remove all single use plastic bottles from around the home and believe we can revolutionise this industry to make it greener and more attractive for everybody.”
Their prize is two months of space and a ‘deep-dive’ mentoring session at Plus X Brighton, to help boost their product forward.
The two runners up in the competition were Jo Godden from ReManuFactory Brighton, a hub offering a collaborative space for experts designers and engineers to come together with local people to rethink our plastic problem.
Brighton Sunnies is their first proposed product, recycling waste to make creative quirky and customisable eye wear with matching cases, using plastic, collected with local charity Freegle.
And Gomi, a company launched in June, which turns flexible plastic deemed “non-recyclable” into their own sustainable products, including portable speakers.
They also collaborate with major brands, including Desperados and Infinity, using plastic waste generated by the businesses to create other products, encouraging sustainable business.
Pawan Saunya from the Gomi team said, “I’ve delayed going to university because the climate crisis is more urgent to me and I hope that I can do something to make a difference.”
The two runners up will each receive two weeks of desk space and workshop access to Plus X Brighton.
The Disruptors panel of judges includes Mat Hunter, co-CEO of Plus X, whose career started in Silicon Valley with IDEO, then Chief Design Officer at the Design Council followed by being MD at the Central Research Laboratory in London; Holly Price, University Relationships Manager from Santander; Daisy Stapley Bunten, found and editor of Startups Magazine; and Marija Butkovic, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and former co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella.
Mat Hunter continued, “As protecting our environment becomes ever more urgent, we want to support the brightest minds in Brighton to help radically reduce our impact on nature and our finalists all have what it takes to disrupt the market with their innovative and revolutionary inventions.
“At Plus X Brighton, we want to champion the very best local talent, keeping it here in Brighton and supporting our own circular economy – we can’t wait to open our stunning new co-working space in January!”
To be a disruptor is to create a product, service, or way of doing things which displaces the existing market leaders and eventually replaces them at the helm of the sector. Disruptors are generally entrepreneurs, outsiders, and idealists rather than industry insiders or market specialists.
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