Sustainable plastic could be the future of additive manufacturing

Our world relies on plastic. One firm, Plastika Skaza, or ‘smart plastic’, is ensuring this reliance is a sustainable one that doesn’t harm the planet

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Plastic can be sustainable. Plastika Skaza works to harness recycled plastic, repurposing it in the form of new and innovative products

Plastic was arguably the most revolutionary material of the 20th century. Developed in the 19th century, it soon took the world by storm, becoming a vital material for a variety of products. However, being a by-product of fossil fuels, concerns over the sustainability of plastics have mounted in our increasingly eco-conscious age.

To combat this challenge, Slovenia’s Plastika Skaza, or ‘smart plastic’, works with the largest multinationals in the world in the field of advanced and environmentally friendly plastics. Based in Slovenia, the company has come a long way from its beginnings as a small family firm 40 years ago. European CEO spoke to the company’s CEO, Ana Laura Rednak, to gain a greater insight into Plastika Skaza’s revolutionary and pioneering efforts to provide sustainable plastics. Rednak explained the importance of corporate social responsibility, and how she hopes her firm is building a sustainable future for the entire planet.

Plastika Skaza has never lost a single B2B customer. Can you explain that level of success?
That is by far our greatest success; we are still working with our first customer, as well as with all the ones that followed. How did we manage to accomplish this unique feat? We work with the largest multinationals in the world, and at the forefront for them is the highest possible level of product quality assurance. We deliver this.

I also believe that what really tips the scales in our favour is that, on our own initiative, we also strive to exceed their already-high expectations in developing the most advanced and environmentally friendly plastics. The capabilities of our R&D specialists are at the heart of our success. We travel the world wide-eyed and filled with curiosity, and respond rapidly and thoughtfully to the needs of our customers, the environment and our planet. We also have an element of surprise – we are agile.

How important is sustainability, and how do you work to improve it?
A sustainable future is in the DNA of our business. Natural resources are wonderful, but they have one drawback: they are finite. For this reason, we believe we need to exploit and work with them very wisely, and only when their presence is absolutely necessary. Where their use is not absolutely essential, it is much better for the environment and for future generations to use resources that are not finite, and can be 100 percent recycled. Why shouldn’t we collect discarded plastic from our environment, recycle it again and again, and save precious natural resources for future generations? At Skaza we are already doing this today, and sustainable development is our number one priority. Our R&D department operates with this philosophy in mind. Currently, we are producing 500,000 tonnes of plastic annually, and we are planning to produce 100 percent of this in recycled form within the next five years.

How else do you distinguish yourself from all the other companies offering similar services?
We know how to maintain a clear focus. In the profusion of opportunities, advice and approaches, we work steadily to make progress in the direction set by our mission. To empower people for a sustainable future, we hone an idea from every conceivable angle until we disrupt the current solution. Also, we dare to be different – let me give you an example. Ten years ago, we received an inquiry for a deal through a highly advanced digital platform. When our competitors failed to respond due to a lack of familiarity with the new technology, we at Skaza rolled up our sleeves and embraced the technology; today we are developing industry 4.0, and that customer is still with us today.

Furthermore, in a man’s world, where 400 male CEOs sit in an auditorium at global forums, my presence as a female leader is really prominent. In fact, we have many women in positions of leadership. Believe me, we stand out in the flood of grey suits and stern faces. We inject our freshness, energy and diversity into everything we do.

We also like to share our knowledge. We have a wealth of advanced information, and we continue to steadily build on it. We give extremely high priority to learning, to the kind of knowledge acquired from international conferences, meetings and specialised literature, as well as to the kind that can only come from long years of experience. We’re pleased our partners turn to us during their most strategically important moments, which means that in Skaza they see a trusted advisor. At the same time, this puts responsibility on us to be a leader in monitoring and creating trends in the development of environmentally friendly plastic materials.

Since becoming CEO, what significant achievements have you overseen?
Skaza is a family company, and one of my greatest achievements is the trust I have gained among my colleagues and the owners of the company in the course of my work. This trust is so great the firm’s owners, Tanja and Igor Skaza, selected me to run the company, even though they are both active in the company in senior management positions.

We give extremely high priority to learning, to the kind of knowledge acquired from international conferences, meetings and specialised literature

I appreciate all the awards and titles I have received, since they confirm the opinions of leaders in my environment, who are convinced I am on the right path. But it is the trust of my colleagues that gives me the greatest encouragement and goal-orientation for moving forward.

However, I would add something else I’m very proud of: I lead a gazelle company. What I mean by this is that we are a company that, despite our longstanding presence in the market, has grown extremely quickly over the past five years. For instance, we have gone from 120 employees to 320. This means it is of crucial importance that we reorganise rapidly and adapt every time the number of employees increases, while work processes must be well thought out and set up in an agile way, so that, along with all these changes, our results also grow. In the past five years, our turnover has grown from €12m to €36m.

Where do you see Skaza in the future?
Skaza will continue to build agile and efficient R&D partnerships in the three sectors we have operated in to date: the furniture, automotive and electrical industries. We will continue to steadily research the habits and hearts of the end users of plastic products. Only in this way can we be a crucial source of useful information for all of our customers, especially for the largest ones, namely multinationals whose R&D departments are often far removed from end customers.

Our goal is to grow from current annual revenues of €36m to €100m by 2020. We have the boldness, we have the knowledge, and we have the production capacity. And for all those companies that share the same belief in a sustainable future and ideas that will turn the world around, from huge multinationals to small start-up companies, our doors are always open.