US – US-based startup Protein Evolution (PEI) has established what it says is the world’s first enzymatic plastic recycling business, landing initial funding of US$20 million.

The funding was raised from entrepreneurs and industry leaders and led by Collaborative Fund’s recently announced climate fund, Collab SOS, which is in partnership with fashion designer Stella McCartney.

The US-based startup couples artificial intelligence (AI) with synthetic biology and maps tens of millions of enzymes capable of transforming plastic waste into reusable chemicals.

PEI’s developments follow recent scientific breakthroughs in AI and natural science, for which numerous studies have shown enzymes can degrade plastics both in laboratories and in the natural environment.

Scott Stankey, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of PEI notes that the business is the first to take these discoveries to scale and make them readily applicable for packaging and textile waste.

After engineering an enzyme that can, for example, break down a PET bottle, “we take our enzyme and grow it in fermentation tanks so that we have enough enzyme to break down large quantities of plastic,” he explains.

Protein Evolution uses the grown enzyme to recycle the plastic water bottle, breaking it down into its building blocks, notes Stankey.

“Our technology condenses a million-year evolutionary process into a single day – helping us create an affordable, scalable and effective solution to revolutionize the plastic waste industry,” said Stankey.

Samsara Eco raises US$34M for its ‘infinite plastic recycling’ tech

Meanwhile, Australian startup that uses enzyme-based technology to break down plastic into its core molecules, Samsara Eco has raised USS$34.7 million ($54 million AUD )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.

Samsara’s new funding will be used for expansion, building its library of plastic-eating enzymes and funding its first commercial facility.

The company says that the facility will be able to infinitely recycle 20,000 tons of plastic starting in 2024.

Samsara Eco will also use the funding to grow its engineering team and expand operations into Europe and North America.

Samsara’s tech is capable of breaking down plastic into its core molecules in minutes, regardless of color, type and state, notes Paul Riley, CEO and founder of Samsara Eco.

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.

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.

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