Interview with Francesca Guidetti

1. The history of Guidetti srl began in the mid-1980s in a small shed in Renazzo, a hamlet in the municipality of Cento (FE), where Mauro Guidetti produced his first prototype on order: a unique machine capable of separating plastic from cables. Today the company is a leader in the recycling and recovery of non-ferrous materials and metals – aluminium, copper, plastic – from electrical cables and other electrical and electronic waste ( WEEE) What were the main obstacles you had to overcome at the start of your business and how did you overcome the initial challenges? 

In those days, there was no talk of recycling or recovery, they were unknown words. That alone was a barrier. We were seen as visionaries: we had no credibility, no money. The beginnings were ‘in recovery’ in every sense and I remember that the first machine for recycling electrical cables (copper and plastic) was made from recycled materials. The product worked very well and so we started to promote it, finding people who appreciated it for its affordability. At trade fairs we made ourselves known all over the world. From that period I think that if we had followed the criticism we would never have started: we ‘dared’ to separate materials with an environmentally friendly system (using only air), in 1996, without asking for help from banks because we did not have enough history. Those only came later and then everything took off from there: we found all doors open.

2. You represent an SME with very high added value, with 20% investment in R&D on turnover, 80% export, 100% Made in Italy, family management: what is the secret to dominating the market without losing your identity? 

This is a very important question. Our identity remains the same as it was in the beginning: we have relied – and continue to do so – on great quality and the constant search for new solutions. We are known for our reliability among customers and suppliers. We guarantee all our machines and do not want shortcuts or easy profits. Aiming for excellence, we want to be the reference and must behave as such. Rather we refuse a sale that panders to customer expectations that cannot be achieved: but we remain ourselves. 

3. Environmental and social sustainability is an issue that touches you closely: thanks to your activity you avoid emitting 225,000,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. How do you incorporate social and environmental values and principles into your daily work? 

We have a slogan that speaks for itself: we make (product) design more sustainable. We reduce energy absorption with less use of materials, we avoid waste. We make working environments comfortable and healthy, and all of our 7 halls are co-fitted with insulating windows.  We have electric handling equipment and the materials of our machines are 100 per cent recyclable. In the future, we want to remove plastic from packaging and continue to optimise transport to avoid unnecessary emissions and to reduce costs: handling a container today costs three times as much as in the past (3000 to 9000 euros)….so we try not to waste anything.  

4. Your company is an important player in what is now called the circular economy model: what interventions (political, legislative, economic) would be needed to expand mechanisms for recovering industrial waste materials? 

If we talk about Italy, even in our sector, bureaucracy is the real problem. We cannot compete with other entrepreneurs because of this. This explains why Guidetti in Italy does not sell more than 10 per cent. Reducing bureaucracy would really be necessary to make us and the whole recycling sector grow. The current financial incentives are very effective and with 4.0 you can renew all plants by equipping them with recycling machines. Streamlining processes would also have social impacts. Let me give you an example: we wanted to hire a Moroccan worker directly from Morocco….it was a continuous obstacle course, between the migration office and the paperwork to guarantee his entry into Italy. If there was less bureaucracy we could also approach the issue of illegal immigration in a concrete way. 

5. It is often said that Italian companies do not know how to network: in your case, have you managed to team up and collaborate with other companies in the area? If yes, on which project/initiative in particular? What were the conditions that allowed you to join forces with other entrepreneurs to pursue a common goal? 

Normally one is afraid of losing markets, know-how, customers. The opposite is true for us: the more we spread our ideas, the more we grow. We have also tried to do things outside our core business, for example working on the recovery of precious metals from electronic boards, together with a company in Naples. Then we also collaborate with our customers, who show our installations to other partners who then contact us. In addition, we have experimented with various partnerships within European projects. Finally, it may sound absurd, but we also work with our competitors: we are convinced of our potential, we know that no one knows the product better than the inventor, all the others are copies and as such they last until we introduce a new, renewed product. 

6. Looking at the long term, what are the three key words around which the future of innovative companies like yours will revolve? 

– Optimise: to reduce waste you have to be simple, avoid too many steps.  

– Diversify: also look at other things that are emerging in your sector (e.g. in our case recycling of aggregates)

– Disclose: don’t be afraid to tell your story and share your business experience  

7. What would you recommend to a young entrepreneur who wants to work in Italy?

If you have an idea, I would advise you to do as we do: have tenacity, look for collaborations, propose your intuition well: now there are exceptional and free means of communication (web, social) that help in this. Then you have to be determined, set yourself goals, day by day, to achieve them without dispersing yourself in too many rivulets but remaining focused. Basically, I recommend being passionate about what you want to do and staying concrete, with an open mind.

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