A Sydney-based startup that uses plastic-eating enzymes to infinitely recycle waste has raised $54 million in a Series A funding round as it looks to build its first 20,000-tonne commercial facility and expand abroad.
Samsara Eco’s raise was funded by returning investors Main Sequence, Woolworths Group’s W23 and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) Innovation Fund, as well as new backers Breakthrough Victoria, Singapore’s Temasek, Assembly Climate Capital, DCVC and INP Capital.
The fresh capital will be used to bolster the company’s engineering team, develop its library of enzymes and fund its new commercial facility in Melbourne, which will ramp up to full-scale production over the next 12 months to process 20,000 tonnes of plastic from 2024.
Samsara is also looking into expanding its operations into Europe and North America.
“Plastic is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and provides enormous utility because of its durability, flexibility and strength. Yet, plastic is an environmental disaster, with almost every piece of the 9 billion tonnes ever made still on the planet,” Samsara Eco CEO Paul Riley said.
“You can’t solve the climate crisis unless you solve the plastics crisis. Unlike other alternative recycling practices, our process is economical, with a low carbon footprint and allows for the effective recycling of challenging plastics including coloured, multi-layered or mixed plastics and textiles.
“Our technology means we have enough plastic in the world already and with our technology you never need to produce plastic from fossil fuels again.”
Developed in partnership with the Australian National University (ANU), Samsara’s technology works by using enzymes to break down plastic (polymer) into its original building blocks – monomers – which can then be used to infinitely recreate brand new plastic.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia produces approximately 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, equating to 100kg per person. Of this, only 13 per cent of plastic is recovered as the vast majority is sent to landfill.
Around 130,000 tonnes of the plastics used by Australians leaks into the environment each year. By 2025, it is predicted that 99 per cent of seabirds worldwide will have ingested plastic.
To address the issue, the government has rolled out national packaging targets, which aims to make 100 per cent of packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and 70 per cent of plastic packaging recycled or composted by 2025.
“Every minute of the day, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic ends up in our oceans. By 2050, the volume of plastic by weight will exceed fish in the sea,” Riley said.
“We’ve had fantastic growth so far, but the plastic problem is growing faster.
“Access to this funding will enable us to accelerate the capabilities of infinite recycling and scale our technology which breaks down plastics in minutes, not centuries.”
Samsara is working alongside Woolworths Group (ASX: WOW) to see its enzymatically recycled packaging on supermarket shelves next year, serving as a key milestone for the company’s aims of recycling 1.5 million tonnes of plastic per annum by 2030.
"Samsara is at the forefront of recycling, having identified a new way to infinitely recycle plastic, which has been a major challenge for businesses globally,” W23 managing director Ingrid Maes said.
“We’re excited about the potential of Samsara and its ambitious plans, which have the power to positively disrupt the role of plastics in supermarkets and retail environments.
“We look forward to partnering with Samsara as they work to make infinite recycling a national and global reality.”
Main Sequence partner Phil Morle said Samsara was a powerful example of how deep tech can be used to solve real-world problems.
“Its breakthrough technology based on science has the potential to end our reliance on fossil fuels for plastic creation, and with it, bring us one step closer to ending the plastic pollution crisis we currently face,” Morle said.
“These are exactly the type of ideas and startups we want to help grow and scale.”
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