Samsara Eco scales up infinite recycling for plastic waste
Ending plastic pollution with its plastic-eating enzymes
Samsara Eco, an Australian company developing a process to break down plastics to their original building blocks, has won national recognition for its innovative approach to recycling that will reduce emissions through reducing plastic waste in landfill.
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 RileyCEO and Founder, Samsara
The CEFC has committed $9.1 million to Samsara Eco through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. Samsara Eco has also attracted investment from CSIRO deep tech fund Main Sequence, Woolworths venture capital and innovation fund W23, Breakthrough Victoria, Temasek, Assembly Climate Capital, DCVC and INP Capital.
Samsara Eco technology is capable of breaking plastic into core molecules in minutes, regardless of colour, type and state. After being broken down to its original components, the resulting product can be sold in pelletised form.
The company took out the Australian Hero category and the Energy and Renewables category at the InnovationAus 2022 Awards for Excellence for its innovative recycling solution. InnovationsAus describes its Australian Hero winner as the “absolute best of the best”, chosen from 38 finalists across 11 categories.
Following a $54 million Series A funding round announced in November 2022, the Australian enviro-tech startup said it was planning to:
- Build its first commercial plastics recycling facility in Melbourne that will have the capacity to infinitely recycle 20,000 tonnes of plastic from 2024
- Expand its engineering team and develop its library of plastic-eating enzymes
- Launch its first enzymatically recycled packaging in partnership with Woolworths Group, which has committed to use the packaging for own brand products.
Samsara Eco is also looking to expand its operations into Europe and North America and has a roadmap to recycling 1.5 million tonnes of plastic per annum by 2030.
CEFC Innovation Fund investments are managed by Virescent Ventures
Global plastic use is expected to double by 2040, with the majority of plastic sent to landfill, and only 13 per cent recycled.
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.
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 has developed a new way to infinitely recycle plastic using enzymes to break plastic down to core building blocks that can be used to recreate plastic again and again.
The process uses modified enzymes to rapidly degrade plastic down to small molecules, ensuring 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; 2,593 litres of oil; 98 million btu (British thermal units) of energy and 23 cubic metres of landfill.
Coming to a supermarket near you
Major retailer Woolworth Group has committed to take Samsara technology from the lab to its supermarkets, using recycled Samsara plastic for its own-brand products. The first enzymatically recycled packaging is set to be launched in Woolworths in 2023.
"We’ll continue to work hard to reduce plastic packaging, but where we can’t cut it out altogether, we can use Samsara to make products plastic neutral - 100 per cent recycled, and 100 per cent recyclable."Brad BanducciCEO Woolworths Group