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Woolies-backed start-up’s plastic-eating enzymes debut

Australian enviro-tech startup Samsara has developed a new way to infinitely recycle plastic to help end plastic pollution. The technology uses plastic-eating enzymes to break plastic down to its core building blocks, which can then be used to recreate brand new plastic, again and again.

Of the 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste generated by Australians on average each year, only 9 per cent is sent for recycling, while 84 per cent ends up in our landfills. The main reason is that current recycling methods are inefficient, time intensive and costly. Adding to the issue is that current methods do not allow all plastic  to be recycled (like coloured bottles) or recycled repeatedly without degradation.

Samsara offers a new approach to recycling that overcomes these issues. It is carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly and doesn’t require any change to consumer behaviour. Samsara’s initial focus is PET plastic and polyester, which is commonly used to create plastic bottles and fast fashion, accounting for roughly a fifth of plastic created annually, but its long term mission is to tackle what would be a world first, the mixed bale of plastic, by advancing the process so that every kind of plastic can, one day, be infinitely recycled.

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Samsara is backed by co-founders Woolworths Group, The Australian National University and deep tech venture fund, Main Sequence founded by CSIRO, who have joined forces to tackle the plastic waste problem with leading edge science.

“If we’re determined to solve the plastic crisis we need to start with where the problem lies, which is how it’s made and recycled. Samsara is a major breakthrough because we’re able to make plastic infinitely recyclable.” said Pual Riley, CEO & Co-Founder of Samsara. “This means we will never have to create plastic from virgin materials like fossil fuels again, and we can divert plastic from our oceans and landfill. This gives consumer brands the tools to continue using plastic with zero tradeoff. Samsara’s recycled plastic looks and performs like the original, minus the environmental price tag. 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.”

“We’re working with the brightest minds in Australia from ANU and Main Sequence to create a completely new way to tackle one of the biggest environmental challenges we face in plastics. Our vision is big and we are laser focused because,  if we get it right, we can end plastic pollution for a healthier, cleaner future.”

Woolworths Group has already committed to turn the first 5,000 tonnes of recycled Samsara plastic into packaging for its own brand products – avoiding new plastic being made and recycling plastic equivalent to the weight of almost nine A380 aircraft.

Starting with packaging like the containers used for its own brand mini tomatoes, Samsara packaging is expected to hit Woolworths shelves in the next two years.

“By helping develop new sustainable technologies today, we can plant the seeds for a better tomorrow,”  said Woolworths Group CEO, Brad Banducci. “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. As Australia’s largest retailer, we want to use our scale for good to drive innovation that can not only reduce our own footprint, but help our suppliers and competitors make positive change across the board. We’re working hard to reduce plastic, but we know there are some products where there simply aren’t effective alternatives. Samsara is paving the way for a future where these products could become part of an infinite loop for recycling.”

“ANU has some of the best researchers on the planet,”  said vice-chancellor of ANU, Professor Brian Schmidt is backing the company.Their work has contributed to our understanding of the world and the development of new knowledge that accelerates the prosperity and sustainability of humankind. Our involvement in Samsara is a perfect example of this. Samsara has the potential to address a massive world challenge, and if we don’t address it soon it will be too late. We’re proud to be a driving force behind Samsara, bringing to life technology that can have real impact in the world, by helping to solve the plastic pollution crisis.”