Reincarnation ecology, an Australian start-up that uses enzyme-based technology to recycle plastics, textiles and other materials countless times, has entered into a major partnership with Lululemon. The deal means Samsara Eco and Lululemon will create what they say is the world’s first infinitely recycled nylon 6,6 and polyester from clothing waste.
The partnership is also Lululemon’s first minority investment in a recycling company for an undisclosed amount, and Samsara Eco’s first partnership in the apparel industry. The start-up has raised a total of $56 million from investors including Breakthrough Victoria and Temasek, and its commercial partners include Woolworths Group.
Samsara Eco’s enzyme-based technology breaks down hybrid garments made of plastic into molecular building blocks to produce new garments, which can then be broken down again, creating what the company says is infinite recycling.
Paul Riley, CEO and founder of Samsara Eco, explains that nylon 6,6 is one of the most commonly used materials in the textile and fashion industries because its complex chemical structure makes it versatile and elastic. But it’s also difficult to break down and recycle.
Both nylon and polyester come from fossil fuels and often end up in landfills. However, by partnering with Lululemon, Samsara Eco has expanded its library of plastic-digesting enzymes to include enzymes for polyester and nylon 6,6. “This means we can now break down garments made from hybrid materials back to their core molecules, which can then be used to recreate entirely new garments again and again.”
The multi-year partnership between Samsara Eco and Lululemon plans to expand circularity through textile-to-textile recycling in the performance apparel industry, but Riley said it is open to textiles from other sources.
“While this partnership is an important milestone in our roadmap to recycle 1.5 million tons of plastic per year by 2030, as our society no longer creates new plastics made from fossil fuels, we expect more plastic-dependent The industry sees Samsara Eco as a viable recycling option,” he said.
Yogendra Dandapure, vice president of Lululemon Raw Materials Innovation, told TechCrunch that Samsara Eco’s enzymatic recycling process will allow the company to turn to recycled end-of-life products again and again to make new clothing. The company’s Be Planet goal is to have 100% of its products incorporate sustainable products and end-use solutions by 2030 to enable a circular ecosystem.
Other Lululemon initiatives include a partnership with Geno in April to launch products made from renewably sourced, plant-based nylon, and Lululemon’s Like New program, which sells used clothing.
Dandapure said that Lululemon is focusing on creating and testing a successful nylon and polyester fabric this year, with an eye on future scale and product plans. “We’re working on previewing our first prototype later this year and will start rolling out small series in the next one to two years,” he said.