Australian “Infinitely Recyclable” Plastic Startup Launched

Left: a plastic polymer PET bottle, Right: pure monomer (terephthatic acid) obtained after the plastic degradation process. Research School of Chemistry, the Australian National University (Image: RSC/ANU).

A startup named Samsara was launched on Tuesday to commercialise a new process using enzymes to turn plastic back into reusable building blocks, with Woolworths committing to buy the first 5,000 tonnes of material for packaging.

According to a statement, Samsara has a novel, “carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly” approach. It will focus on PET and polyester at first, with a goal of eventually developing a “world-first” technology able to process a bale of mixed plastics.

“Samsara is a major breakthrough because we’re able to make plastic infinitely recyclable,” said Paul Riley, co-founder and CEO, adding that in future there would be no need to create virgin plastic.

“For consumers, it will remove the time and energy that goes into thinking about what products to purchase because Samsara plastic is not only recycled, it is infinitely recyclable.”

Woolworths said it had committed to buying the first 5,000 tonnes of what Samsara made, initially for use in packaging such as tomato containers.

(According to its report for the last financial year, Woolworths owns a quarter of Samsara.)

“We’ve co-founded Samsara to play a part in addressing one of the most challenging sustainability problems of our time and we’re excited to work together on its first retail product, which will be tested in our supply chain,” said Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci.

Other backers are venture science firm Main Sequence, Woolworths Group, and Australian National University.

Main Sequence partner Mike Zimmerman foreshadowed the launch in an interview with @AuManufacturing in November last year, citing support for a recycling startup using “advanced enzymes” to reprocess plastic.


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