July 26th, 2023
Samsara Eco have developed an enzymatic technology that breaks down plastics into their individual building blocks, known as monomers, which can be used to make new products.
The technology makes it possible to infinitely recycle plastics into new high-grade products rather than ‘downcycling’ them, allowing lower-impact alternatives to important materials in the apparel and packaging industries.
Samsara Eco's 2030 ambition is to recycle over 1.5M tonnes of plastic and textile waste per annum, saving an estimated 2.5M tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The detrimental impact of plastic waste on our environment has become undeniable and has captured the attention of activists and policymakers around the globe. While plastic was once a revolutionary invention and remains a critical material in many industries; current trends in production and consumption are far from sustainable.
Traditional recycling practices, despite good intentions, often rely on ‘downcycling’ plastics, diminishing the quality and structural integrity of the material with each recycling cycle and eventually leading them to landfill.
But envirotech company Samsara Eco is leveraging the power of plastic-eating enzymes to break down plastics into their individual building blocks. Once the plastic has been broken down into ‘monomers’, the building blocks can be used to create new high-grade plastic products, much like dismantling a Lego house into its individual parts and using them to construct a new structure. The process creates the potential for infinite plastic recycling in closed-loop cycles.
We sat down with Eleanor Baldwin of Samsara Eco, who discussed the organisation's ambitions to reduce plastic waste and innovate for a circular economy.
“Samsara Eco is an envirotech company that has developed a revolutionary platform technology that recycles plastics, breaking them down into building blocks using proprietary enzymes. Our objective is to deliver climate repair through infinite recycling. The result is recycled plastics with the quality and condition of virgin plastics.
Existing recycling technologies have failed to provide an adequate solution to the plastics crisis. Our technology is a solution for the world to never have to use fossil fuels to create virgin quality plastics or green chemicals again.”
“Creating a circular economy for plastics is at the heart of our business. Our goal was to develop an alternative to existing methods of plastic and textiles recycling that used the catalytic power of enzymes. If we can break plastics back down into their individual constituent molecules called monomers, we would no longer need to source these from fossil fuels. The plastic molecules we need to create new products have already been made but are just ‘locked up’ as plastic waste. However, traditional methods of recycling are not sufficiently fast or energy efficient to achieve this.”
“Samsara gives certain plastics a circular life, using no fossil fuels and using a process that has a low carbon footprint. We have founded technology that can infinitely recycle Nylon 66 (a world-first) and PET, bringing to life lower-impact alternatives to important materials in the apparel and packaging industries.”
“Our enzyme technology dramatically speeds up the process by which plastic is broken down all the way to its constituent monomers, without downcycling the plastics. In contrast to competitors who require milling or heat-extrusion as a first processing step, Samsara has minimal pre-processing requirements. Because Samsara’s enzyme catalysts require mild conditions to function, being active in ambient temperature and aqueous media, they minimise the environmental, carbon and energy footprints of our process.”
If we are serious about changing our ways, we need a new approach to how plastic is made and recycled. - Paul Riley, Samsara Eco CEO
“It was during the Main Sequence Ventures (MSV) ideathon when our CEO Paul Riley went searching for plastic alternatives and recycling technologies and came across plastic-degrading enzymes from an article published in the ANU Reporter. This was when Samsara Eco was born with a combination of support from MSV, ANU and Woolworths Group, who were also present on the day. They were the initial believers in our technology who then raised funding to start the scaling and commercialising of the technology.”
“Having a market leader like Woolworths as part of the team has been incredible, with their access to supplies and understanding of all parts of the plastic economy. Likewise, MSV has provided amazing guidance in running a successful startup. Finally, the ANU has helped in housing our researchers and providing access to top-tier facilities for the research.”
“We are constantly evolving our innovations to make this technology scalable and environmentally sound and working on partnering with some of the biggest companies in textiles and packaging to help achieve this.”
“Our R&D will continue to develop further enzymes to recycle multiple plastics while it scales up PET processes to production. We are also investing in method development and the underlying engineering and design to ensure we maintain a technological edge in this field.”
“Our 2030 ambition is to recycle 1.5M+ tonnes of plastic and textile waste per annum, saving 2.5M tonnes of CO2 emissions.”
“In recognition of the effectiveness of our technology to recycle nylon, we recently announced a partnership with the athletic apparel brand lululemon. This multi-year collaboration will scale circularity through textile-to-textile recycling and see us create the world’s first infinitely recycled Nylon 66 and polyester.”
“Our objective is to deliver climate repair through infinite recycling. Our technology maturity roadmap involves developing proprietary libraries of enzymes addressing multiple plastics and textiles over the next six months to two years.”
“If the Samsara technology is applied across the plastic and chemical manufacturing industries, it could save us around five per cent of global annual CO2 emissions (2.5 Gt of CO2)!”
“Follow our movement @sam.for.change to help spread truthful information on plastic recycling and help change the way we look and think about plastic.”