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Swansea company which creates eye-catching products from waste plastic set to double workforce

31 Aug 2022 3 minute read
Panels from Smile Plastics are used here in a Ganni store

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

A design and manufacturing company which creates eye-catching products from waste plastic plans to double its workforce in Swansea.

Smile Plastics uses materials including plastic yoghurt pots and bottles to create decorative and durable panels for furniture and use in showrooms and commercial and home interiors generally.

Clients include Mercedes-Benz and fashion brand Ganni. It also designs and makes side tables and chopping boards.

The company currently operates from Crofty Industrial Estate, North Gower, but it needs more space and now has planning permission to move to a former factory at Swansea West Business Park, Fforestfach.

Emily Skinner, Smile Plastics’s customer experience manager, said the company’s workforce was currently between 25 and 32 and that the aim was to more than double it by the end of 2023.

She described the products as high end, and 100% recycled and recyclable. A lot of money, she said, has been invested in machinery, processing and design work.

“People want the product to look absolutely beautiful – the design, the aesthetic, is really important,” she said.

Coffee grounds

Smile Plastics’s website said it could work with various plastics and types of paper, among other materials, and that over the years it had worked with CDs, coffee grounds and electric cabling sheath – as long as the waste wasn’t metal or heavily contaminated.

Plastic, though, is the main ingredient, with the overall aim to create desirable products from something perceived as low value or just waste. This market, said Emily, was now highly competitive.

The company has had funding from the Welsh Government, which wants Wales to be a zero waste county by 2050, plus private sector investors.

Emily said one of the two pioneers who explored turning plastics into creative products many years ago, Colin Williamson, was an adviser until recently, and that Smile Plastics’s machines included ones called Colin 1, Colin 2 and Colin 3. The co-founders of Smile Plastics are Adam Fairweather, who is technical director, and managing director Rosalie McMillan.

Smile Plastics’s products are used in this Mercedes-Benz studio

Rosalie said: “The investment that we have received has enabled us to accelerate the scaling up of our operation through taking on an additional factory and production line at a pivotal time for us.

“We will be tripling our capacity over the next year and offering an enhanced service to our growing customer base.”

A planning statement submitted as part of Smile Plastics’s planning application to Swansea Council said the business was developing an apprenticeship programme and also helped community groups.

Work to relocate the company to the new site – the former Michton factory – is expected to get under way in the final three months of this year.

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