Samsara Eco, an Australian startup that uses enzyme-based technology to break down plastic into its core molecules, announced today it has raised $54 million AUD (about $34.7 million USD) in Series A funding. The company is planning to build its first plastic recycling facility in Melbourne later this year, with the target of full-scale production by 2023.
Investors in the round include Breakthrough Victoria, Temasek, Assembly Climate Capital, DCVC and INP Capital. Existing investors like deep-tech fund Main Sequence, Woolworths Group’s W23 and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) also participated.
Samsara launched last year in partnership with the Australian National University. TechCrunch last covered the startup when it raised $6 million earlier this year.
The company’s enzyme-based technology breaks down plastics into their molecular building blocks to produce new plastic products — which can in turn be broken down again, creating what Samsara refers to as infinite plastic recycling.
Samsara’s new funding will be used for expansion, building its library of plastic-eating enzymes and funding its first commercial facility, which it says will be able to infinitely recycle 20,000 tons of plastic starting in 2024. It will also grow its engineering team and expand operations into Europe and North America.
CEO and founder Paul Riley said that since March, when Samsara’s previous round of funding was announced, it’s been focused on expanding its enzyme library, which is now capable of depolymerizing several different types of plastic. Its also worked with partners to develop market solutions using Samsara’s plastic-recycling tech.
Samsara’s tech is capable of breaking down plastic into its core molecules in minutes, regardless of color, type and state, Riley said. Its Melbourne facility will first recycle PET plastic and polyester, which Riley says accounts for about a fifth of plastic created annually. Its long-term mission is to recycle mixed bale plastics and advance its tech to the point where every kind of plastic can be infinitely recycled.
“Given the scale of the plastics crisis, our vision was always to scale infinite plastic recycling as fast as possible,” he said. “For us, this capital raise was about partnering with those that bring industry expertise and commitment to addressing one of the world’s most prominent climate challenges — which is fossil-made plastic — and, in the process, reducing plastic pollution by closing the loop. ”
Samsara is also preparing for the launch of its first enzymatically recycled packaging, in partnership with Woolworths Group. The packaging will be on shelves in Woolworths’ supermarkets next year, moving the company toward its goal of recycling 1.5 million tons of plastic per year by 2030. Woolworths Group has committed to turning the first 5,000 tons of recycled Samsara plastic into packaging for its branded products, like vegetables and bakery trays.
Riley said Samsara’s tech is highly tolerant of contamination and can recycle colored plastics, mixed plastics and multi-layered plastic, which means it has applications across a wide range of industries, including packaging, fashion, automative, medical, electronics and construction.
The fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global CO2 emissions. Australia is the second-highest consumer of textiles per person in the world, Riley said, which gives Samsara the opportunity to recycle discarded fast fashion pieces in the form of mixed fiber textiles, reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills.
“As we expand our library of plastic-eating enzymes, the opportunity for infinite plastic recycling will continue to grow across all these industries, meaning we’ll never have to produce plastic from fossil-fuels again,” Riley said.