Aussie envirotech Samsara raises $6 million to tackle ‘infinite recycling’

Samsara

Samsara co-founder and chief executive Paul Riley. Source: supplied.

Aussie enviro-tech startup Samsara is racing toward its goal of making plastic infinitely recyclable at scale, with a $6 million raise to begin construction on a local recycling plant this year.

Samsara launched last year with breakthrough technology that uses enzymes to break plastic down to its core ‘building blocks’, which can then be used to recreate new plastic into the future.

According to co-founder and chief executive Paul Riley, the technology means Australia will be able to move away from making brand new plastic from fossil fuels, addressing the current recycling system that sees less than 10% of what is sent for recycling actually recycled.

The fresh capital injection will help Samsara prepare for the building of its local recycling plant, as well as grow its local team of scientists and researchers developing the technology.

The funding will help the startup “build up our suite in our library of enzymes,” Riley tells SmartCompany, allowing it to break down more types of plastic.

The business was founded through a partnership between VC firm Main Sequence, Woolworths, and the Australian National University (ANU), along with Riley.

Main Sequence contributed to this raise, along with Woolworths’ investment arm W23. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) also invested, through its $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund.

“Having [CEFC] on board, and their expertise, has been fantastic,” Riley says.

“They have the opportunity and the scale to follow and invest with us and to support us as we grow.”

In a statement, CEFC chief Ian Learmonth said Samsara’s technology offers a “welcome solution” to the major challenge of plastics recycling.

“Expanding resource efficiency and creating a circular economy can radically improve recycling in Australia and around the world,” Learmonth said.

“The potential emissions and landfill benefits are enormous.”

Private-public collaboration to solve recycling challenges

Recycling technology has been highlighted as a key emerging technology under the Australian Government Technology Investment Roadmap to support the transition to a lower emissions economy.

Ahead of next week’s Budget, Riley said he would like to see even more government funding in the recycling space.

The Federal Government on Monday announced it would boost the Recycling Modernisation Fund to $250 million, with a $60 million new funding stream targeted at advanced plastic recycling technology.

“We think that’s a fantastic step in the right direction,” Riley says.

But “it’s going to take a lot more investment from all sectors of government and private enterprise to ensure that we can actually resolve the plastics crisis.”

Samsara has also made moves to increase brand recognition and spread its message of more effective recycling, through a recent partnership with the Australian Open.

The startup collected the single-use plastic bottles discarded by tennis players at January’s event and transported them to their Canberra lab to be recycled.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate our technology to an event that’s looking to resolve their sustainability challenges,” Riley told SmartCompany at the time.

Now, the founder is excited by the opportunity to accelerate development of Samsara’s technology.

“This is true infinite recycling,” he says.

“It delivers an opportunity to actually put a full stop behind fossil fuel involvement in the production of plastics — and that really excites us.”

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