Interview Philip - 3rd generation Wolkat
Meet Philip Boumans, entrepreneur and inventor of the recycling chain within Wolkat.
Philip Boumans is the 3rd generation in the Wolkat family. At the age of 18 he was already working in the family business, because he enjoyed that more than studying. Philip’s father made him do an internship at several textile recycling companies so he could gain work experience. This way he ended up in England and then Germany and France.
At least, that was the plan...
His grandmother Toos van Ierland founded Wolkat in 1948. It was also her who came up with the name, she simply made a derivation of the two raw materials wool and cotton (Wol and Katoen in Dutch). "She was a real businessperson and already saw opportunities in recycling, but the world looked very different back in those times. She collected wastepaper, metal and rags, materials that were sold as raw materials back then, and then she sold them. That's how our company started.”
Her eldest son Jan van Ierland was European Champion Judo in 1961. Sadly, he was killed in a traffic accident at the age of 27. This great loss had a huge impact on the life of Toos and completely changed who she was.
Philips' father was forced to help the company. He bought Van Spaendock's buildings and Wolkat moved to that new location. However, the building was in very poor condition and was flooded during the crisis. It was a time of survival and it became fatal for Philip's father, who died in 1981.
Philip took the plunge and started to travel because he wanted to find out more about the recycling of textiles. He learned many useful things in England, where the market is much larger. There he clearly saw that the world of raw materials was about to change. He also travelled to India and the Middle East many times, to find out what was happening in the recycling market on an international level. Despite being a relatively unknown entrepreneur, he achieved successes by trial and error, and he was able to sell his products and services.
Philip went looking for a partner. His idea was to set up a recycling company where they had everything in their own hands. He did not want to do this in India, he wanted to work closer to home and on a smaller scale. In 1995 he set up the factory in Tangier, together with his partner.
The first years were turbulent and big investments had to be made. But he had a business model with a circular economy in mind.
Philip: "The strength lies in the raw materials and the trick is that they go back into the product, but the processing process is very complicated.
No company could offer the complete processing process. Every country only performs a part of the process. But Wolkat did it! It is therefore the only textile company in the world that controls the entire recycling chain. From collecting, sorting, reusing, recycling to spinning.
Spinning was also the biggest challenge, we spent 5 years trying to get the spinning mill off the ground. Time we needed to do research and test processes in order to achieve the best and most complete end result possible. A good example of this are the yarns: what was the best way to treat them and how could we turn them into new materials?"
"Now we produce 5,000 to 10,000 kg of yarns every day from the raw materials, depending on the thickness. We still sell a lot to the local market, but we are striving for a more dominant position in the European market. That's why Wolkat is looking for partners with whom we can bring the collected textile - from which yarns are spun - back to useful products such as clothing, for example. There are many possibilities, but it should not be at the expense of our initial idea. Some parties only think about profit but that's not our priority. Fortunately, we have many projects with which we, together with our circular partner, can contribute to making the polluted textile industry more sustainable. My vision? To create a world in which there is no such thing as textile waste; only raw materials. ”