ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

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24, May 2022

Synbio-start up creates an infinite recycling circle for plastics

A new Australian start-up involving Chief Investigator Professor Colin Jackson will ‘infinitely’ recycle plastic to help solve the global plastic pollution crisis.  

Enzymes that break down plastic to their core building blocks are the secret behind Samsara, a company supported by the Australian National University (ANU), venture fund Main Sequence and the Woolworths Group.

The supermarket giant has committed to taking the first 5000 tonnes of recycled plastic into packaging for its products.

Professor Jackson, who is the company’s Chief Scientist, says the company’s technology used plastic-eating enzymes which could one day end plastic pollution.

‘It means plastic can be infinitely recycled,’ he says. ‘Our technology allows us to break down products and produce food-grade plastics with the same characteristics as virgin plastic.’

Samsara initially is focussing on PET plastic and polyester which account for about a fifth of all plastic created annually. Only nine percent of plastic sent for recycling is actually recycled, according to Samsara.

CEO and co-founder Paul Riley says 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 says.

‘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.’

‘By helping develop new sustainable technologies today, we can plant the seeds for a better tomorrow,’ says Woolworths CEP Brad Banducci, noting that on the current trajectory there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. ‘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.’

Professor Jackson is internationally recognised as an expert in protein evolution, engineering and design and has worked for over a decade on enzymes that degrade synthetic chemicals.