Australia will soon be welcoming its first commercial recycling facility that uses enzymes to “eat” plastic and break it down into its core molecules so that they can be reused.
Recycling start-up Samsara’s first 5,000 tonnes of recycled material – equivalent to the weight of almost nine A380 aircraft – will be tested in packaging for Woolworth’s supermarket shelves over the next two years.
The enzymes were developed by researchers at the Australian National University and are currently being used on a small scale in an on-campus laboratory. The commercial facility is expected to employ around 50 people.
Woolworths has announced that it will support Samsara in partnership with the ANU and the Main Sequence innovation fund of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research organization.
Samsara will initially focus on hard, rigid “PET” plastic used for bottles and food packaging, as well as polyester fabrics.
It will recycle plastics collected by roadside recycling bins, including colored and contaminated plastics that traditional recycling cannot handle as effectively.
Paul Riley, Samsara chief executive officer, said the technology meant that plastics of all kinds could eventually be made indefinitely recyclable.
“That means we never have to make new plastic from fossil fuels, and we can salvage plastic from our oceans and landfills to bring it back to life in new products,” he said.
The first samsara packaging is used for Woolworths’ private label products.
“We know plastics and recycling are among our customers’ most important environmental concerns,” said Brad Banducci, chief executive officer of Woolworths Group
Earlier this year, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi 57 other big companies joined forces in a pact to radically reduce the plastic they use.
One of the goals of the Plastic Pact for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands is for every supermarket to have 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging and to eliminate unnecessary and “problematic” plastic packaging.
The large supermarkets have been harshly criticized in the past for the amount of unnecessary plastic packaging on the products they sell.
Woolworths Group says it continues to cut plastic and is removing 2500 tons of plastic packaging from circulation over 12 months, in addition to the thousands of tons that have been removed from their own branded packaging in recent years.
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