Operating under the German waste management group ALBA, Interseroh Plastics R&D aims to look for ways to make high-end products out of waste plastic.
ALBA Group chairman Axel Schweitzer said the aim of the centre was to set a new milestone in recycling plastic materials, so as waste material is not used only for low-value products, but for useful, high-quality ones.
"For example, to make automotive industry products from yoghurt cups," he said and mentioned a recently launched project to make casings for Stabilo pencils from Coca-Cola bottle caps.
According to Schweitzer, this is the first such centre which brings together both research and development. The location near Maribor was chosen because of its strategic position and possibility of cooperating with local universities, he said.
The centre comprises five laboratories with cutting-edge processing and analytical equipment. The team of experts working there is headed by Manica Ulčnik-Krump.
She also heads the R&D team at Germany's Interseroh Dienstleistungs GmbH, another company operating under ALBA. The group has two brands, ALBA and Interseroh, both dedicated to waste management.
In 2004, ALBA also established a waste management company in Slovenia, called Interseroh Ljubljana.
"After all these years, we were finally able to move R&D to Slovenia completely. We work for the parent group, but also for the market," she said.
"We follow the life cycle of the material. When it becomes waste, it becomes raw material for us. We collect it, sort it, grind it and process it into granulate, from which we can produce new products for the market in line with our clients' wishes. What you threw out yesterday we turn into high-quality material," she explained.
Education, Science and Sport Minister Maja Makovec Brenčič also attended Tuesday's opening of the centre. "In Slovenia, we often hear that education, economy and science are not connected enough. I believe today's gathering proves otherwise," she said.
She also pointed out the new centre's eco-friendly concept. "If there is anything that connects us, it is the responsibility we have to the world, nature, the environment and to ourselves," she said.
ALBA Group is based in Germany's Berlin and has a total of around 7,500 employees. The group operates in Europe and Asia. Last year, it made some EUR 2 billion in turnover.