‘Infinite recycling’ startup partners with Australian Open to tackle water bottle waste

Samsara

Samsara's collection site at the Australian Open. Source: supplied.

Aussie environmental tech startup Samsara is partnering with the Australian Open to recycle thousands of plastic bottles discarded by players.

The business was founded about 18 months ago through a partnership between VC firm Main Sequence, Woolworths, and the Australian National University (ANU), along with co-founder and chief executive Paul Riley.

The mission is to commercialise tech out of ANU, using enzymes to break down plastics to their original core ‘building blocks’, meaning they can be reused an infinite amount of times.

The startup will be collecting the single-use plastic bottles discarded by tennis players and transporting them to their Canberra lab to be recycled again and again.

During the two-week tournament, which has seen players working out in temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or more, the startup is expected to collect at least 5000 single-use water bottles.

A stepping stone for Samsara

The partnership came about through Wildcard Ventures — the venture arm of Tennis Australia, which is also an investor in the business — and through Main Sequence’s impact group Voice Capital, which connects events and organisations with impact startups.

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

And it likely won’t be the only large-scale and high-profile event Samsara will be appearing at. There are opportunities here to partner with festivals, concerts, cultural events and other sporting events.

Many organisers of these events are actively searching for sustainability solutions, Riley notes.

“To have the infinite recycling available to them for their waste, we think is a massive opportunity.”

While Samsara has secured funding from its partners, Riley doesn’t disclose any of the numbers. However he does note that the startup will be raising again towards the end of 2022.

Ultimately, the facility will be able to recycle clothing as well as plastics, breaking down polyester and nylon fibers to their raw forms in order to sell them on to be reused, and tackling the amount of clothing that ends up in landfill.

Spreading Samsara’s eco-friendly message

Samsara is not the only Aussie startup getting involved in the Australian Open this year.

Workplace safety unicorn SafetyCulture announced in 2020 it has signed a multi-year deal as the tournament’s official workplace operations partner.

The startup’s tech is being used to drive improvements in safety across operations, from training for ball kids to weather alerts and construction inspections.

And while getting a partner of this size on board is a big commercial win, it’s also something that can lead to more brand recognition.

For Samsara it plays into an educational element to the business as well, simply getting the brand name out there and starting to spread its message of more effective recycling.

In 2022, the startup is doubling down on its education and branding arm, Sam For Change, in a bid to raise awareness of the shortcomings of current recycling tech and the opportunities that exist.

This is a high-level, very new tech, Riley adds.

“There are very few people in the world looking at it.”

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