In France, materials expert Erik de Laurens is turning smelly fish waste into beautiful tiles that resemble marble. Dubbed Scalite, the material is a composite of the collagen polymers that naturally make up fish scales, combined with natural binders and dyes and squeezed together via hydraulic press.
Scalite is currently available in 12×12-inch tiles suitable for dry areas of a home or other structure. “It’s like MDF [medium-density fiberboard], it swells,” Laurens tells Fast Company, adding that the company is working with a biochemist to formulate a more water-resistant version. “It’s tricky because the more water-resistant you are, the less biodegradable,” he adds.
Laurens first created the tiles in 2011 while studying at London’s Royal College of Art and has since founded Scale to commercialize the material. Though up to two-thirds of a fish is discarded, he says finding material remains a challenge because separation infrastructure for fish waste doesn’t exist. Currently, most of the Scalite scales is sourced from sardine and salmon farms.