How my seaweed can help save the planet, east London inventor reveals
- Credit: Innovate UK
A revolutionary material made from seaweed and aimed at preventing yet more plastic seeping into the world’s oceans has won its inventor a Young Enterprise award.
Science enthusiast Marcos Ulloa, who did an innovations Masters degree at Queen Mary University, aims to set up Britain’s first commercial land-based seaweed farm to mass produce the substance.
The 27-year-old from Canary Wharf has found a way to use dried or fresh seaweed as wrapping for food products and other uses instead of plastics.
“The material can reduce the waste accumulated in landfills,” he explains. “It would stop the amount of plastic that reaches the ocean.”
His Sweed enterprise company has developed a new type of mouldable material which is also home-compostable and water-soluble. It can be used to replace plastics and other non-environmentally friendly products used in cosmetics, 3D printing and food wrapping industries.
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Plastic waste continually washes up on the foreshore of the Thames, especially on the river bend around the Isle of Dogs where it gets caught up on beaches. Volunteers regularly have to clear tons of plastic to prevent the stuff eventually being washed out to sea where it harms marine life.
Marcos’s soluble seaweed could prevent all that if it’s used for the food wrapping industry.
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It has earned him a 2021 Young Entrepreneur award, one of 19 from London announced by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust. The awards recognize people from all over the UK “with business ideas and the potential to be successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation”.
Some 64 awards are being given, double previous years, with winners getting £5,000, one-on-one business coaching and an allowance for living costs.
Ideas span technology, physical and mental health, fashion and sustainability. They include mobile apps supporting NHS staff, online mentoring tools for graduates to find jobs, clinical research helping stroke survivors recover and research into faster treatment for disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, as well as Marcos’s seaweed that can help save the planet.