It’s unlikely that “fish scales” come to mind when thinking about eco-friendly or upcycled materials, and probably even less so when thinking about disposable drinking cups or eye glasses.
(And yes, we are referring to actual fish scales. From fish in the ocean)
Royal College of Art graduate Erik de Laurens, under the guidance of Jurgen Bey, found that discarded fish scales can be used as an alternative to plastic, bone or horn as its durability is of a very similar quality.
De Laurens sourced fish from a local fishmonger, washed and dyed them, and pressed them into drinking cups, eye glasses and swimming goggles, without the need for a binding agent.
As a material fish scales are compostable and biodegradable, as well as heatproof and fire-retardent.
Interestingly, De Laurens’s fish-scale creations came about as part of an initiative that sought to design objects for the canteen of a primary school in Macassar, outside Cape Town. While this initiative never took off, De Laurens continues to explore possible applications for fish scales.