An Australian startup company plans to commercialize an infinite plastics recycling process that uses enzymes to break down plastics into their original monomers.
Late in 2022, the company, Samsara Eco Pty. Ltd., raised A$54 million (US$37 million) from venture capital providers and Breakthrough Victoria, which manages a A$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) investment fund set up by the Victorian Government to encourage innovation in that state.
Jestin George, head of strategy for Samsara, told Plastics News the company would build its first commercial-scale factory in Victoria at a location yet to be decided. It will open in 2024.
She said Samsara currently operates a "commercial innovation hub" in Jerrabomberra, which is close to the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.
She said the hub is a temporary facility where Samsara can demonstrate its ability to translate the technology from the laboratory to commercial-scale production.
George said Samsara was launched by businessman Paul Riley, who had experience in venture capital and private equity business building, in late 2021 after he read an article about two ANU chemistry doctorate students who had developed plastic-degrading enzymes. Both are now listed as team members on Samsara's website.
Samsara's initial backers were ANU, Main Sequence — a venture capital fund founded by CSIRO, a federal government-backed research organization, to help commercialize research projects — and the giant Sydney-based supermarket retailer Woolworths Group Ltd.
"ANU released the intellectual property and research to Samsara Eco because [the university] wanted to support commercialization without squabbling over the rights," George said.
Samsara leases laboratories at ANU to continue the research and is designing its A$80 million (US$55 million) factory. An ANU news release said the factory is expected to recycle 20,000 tons of plastic a year from 2024.
George said Samsara expects to be profitable next year once the Victorian factory opens.