Infinite possibilities for plastics recycling
Big ambition for innovative Samsara Eco technology
Samsara Eco is an Australian company developing a process to break down plastics, returning them to their original “building blocks” so the materials can be reused in new plastics, avoiding the constraints of existing recycling technologies.
The current approach to recycling is simply inefficient and ill-equipped to handle the plastic pollution crisis we are faced with today. If we are serious about changing our ways, we need a new approach to how plastic is made and recycled. Instead of mining for fossil fuels to create new plastics or relying on current recycling methods which sees only about nine per cent actually recycled, we can take plastic that already exists and infinitely recycle it.Paul RileyFounder, Samsara
The CEFC has committed $1.1 million to Samsara Eco through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. Samsara Eco has also attracted investment from CSIRO’s Main Sequence, and W23, the Woolworths venture capital and innovation fund, to complete a $6 million capital raising.
Samsara has synthesised a novel enzyme to be dramatically more effective, compressing a process that would naturally take millennia. After being broken down to its original components, the resulting product can be sold in pelletised form to customers. The manufacture of plastics is a significant source of carbon emissions, in part due to the use of fossil fuels used during the extraction and transportation processes.
Global plastic use is expected to double by 2040, with the majority of plastic sent to landfill, and only 13 per cent recycled. Australia’s plastics related carbon footprint, at around a tonne per year, is among the highest in the world. Current mechanical recycling requires clear and clean plastics, excluding millions of tonnes of coloured plastics. The process means plastics can only be broken down for reuse a limited number of times due to structural degradation.
Working in partnership with the Australian National University, Samsara’s proprietary technology involves a depolymerization process which uses modified enzymes to rapidly degrade plastic down to small molecules. This ensures recycled plastics materials have the same structural integrity as virgin plastics. The technology is particularly useful in recycling heterogeneous mixes of hard to recycle plastics, including coloured, multilayered and mixed plastics.
The patented process builds on a 2016 discovery of bacteria that produces an enzyme that consumes plastic, Japanese researchers found the bacteria at the bottom of landfill, spurring researchers around the world to further enhance the breakdown of plastics.
According to Samsara, one tonne of recycled plastic saves 5,774 kWh of electricity; 2593 litres of oil; 98 million btu (British thermal units) of energy and 23 cubic metres of landfill.
Recycling technology has been highlighted as a key emerging technology under the Australian Government Technology Investment Roadmap to support the transition to a lower emissions economy. The CEFC investment also reflects its commitment to waste reduction through the Australian Recycling Investment Fund.
CEFC Innovation Fund investments are managed by Virescent Ventures.