Start-up to tackle plastic crisis with "infinite recycling"

Publication date
Tuesday, 21 Sep 2021
A researcher in a lab with a plastic bottle.

Researcher Matthew Spence testing the activity of the plastic degrading enzymes in the Samsara laboratory at the ANU Research School of Chemistry. Photo: Research School of Chemistry/ANU

A new Australian enviro-tech start-up backed by The Australian National University (ANU) will "infinitely" recycle plastic to help solve the global plastic pollution crisis.

Samsara, which is supported by Woolworths Group, venture fund Main Sequence and ANU, uses new technology to break down plastic to its core elements to create new plastic.

The tech, which uses "plastic-eating" enzymes, has been developed by researchers at ANU and could one day end plastic pollution.

Samsara's novel recycling process is carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly, as well as removing the need to rely on fossil fuels to create plastics.

Australians generate more than 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waster each year. But, only nine per cent of this waste makes its way to recycling, with 84 per cent ending up in landfill.

Samsara will initially focus on PET plastic and polyester. These materials are commonly used to crate plastic bottles and in fast fashion and account for one-fifth of plastic created annually.

Ultimately, the company aims to achieve a world first and advance their process so that every kind of plastic can one day be recycled over and over again.

"ANU has some of the best researchers on the planet," ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said.

"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."

CEO and co-founder Paul Riley said Samsara's infinite recycling represents "a major breakthrough".

"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," he said.

"We're able to make plastic infinitely recyclable.

"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."

Woolworths Group has already committed to turn the first 5,000 tonnes of recycled Samsara plastic into packaging for its own brand products, with the new packaging expected to hit the shelves in the next two years.

"By helping develop new sustainable technologies today, we can plant the seeds for a better tomorrow," Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said.

"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."

Main Sequence Partner Phil Morle, who architected and co-founded the company, said: "We're addicted to plastic.

"We know it's bad for us but we continue to make and consume more of it. If we continue on the current trajectory, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. No one wants to live in that world.

"It's never been more urgent to break free from our obsession with creating virgin, fossil fuel based plastics and dumping them in landfill and the oceans.

"Samsara is offering a solution that is not only greener but faster and more cost effective to recycle plastic. We see massive potential for the company and its ability to solve one of our world's epic challenges."

For more information about Samsara visit