Interview with Olaf Rintsch

Olaf Rintsch
Olaf Rintsch
President of Textiles Division
Bureau of International Recycling (BIR)
Bureau of International Recycling (BIR)

A pair of jeans can be recycled 5 times, so I think the recycled product in future will not be so expensive.
Olaf Rintsch, President of Textiles Division, Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) speaks about the long term benefits by textile recycling in an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi. Synopsis: BIR was founded in 1948 and it is the first federation to support the interests of the recycling industry on an international scale. Today, the organisation represents over 850 member companies from the private sector and 40 national associations in more than 70 countries. It is a non-profit organisation under Belgian law. The registered office is currently headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. Olaf Rintsch has been President of the Textiles Division of BIR since June 2007. He is also the owner and Managing Director of Wenkhaus GmbH, a Germany-based textiles recycling company. His company Wenkhaus GmbH is a traditional textiles grading company that was created almost 100 years ago. Mr. Rintsch is a board member of the Council for Textile Recycling. Excerpts:

Please tell us when was Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) established? What are the main goals of the organization?

BIR was founded in 1948 in Belgium. BIR promotes international trade in an environmentally sound manner in both recycled materials and recycling technology. Its goal is to reduce energy consumption thus reducing CO2 emissions and preserving the planet’s natural resources. The organisation also helps to drive sustainable management of resources. It aims to provide its members with a proper forum to discuss issues of importance to the international recycling community.

According to your opinion, which are the regions or countries that have put Sustainability issue in the apparel industry in the forefront?

I think it is not about countries but it is about a company’s policies. There are few companies which are putting the sustainability issue in the forefront. All European as well as USA based companies are emphasising on recycling of the available material.

Sustainability in apparel business includes its implementation at various stages i.e. right from yarn manufacturing to retailing. How can one ensure that all the aspects have been kept into consideration by a brand? How can this be taken care of at the B2B as well as B2C level?

It is really important for a company to find the right partner, especially in European countries. While manufacturing eco-friendly apparels, each and every step should be checked carefully. So, if a company produces 100% recycled textiles, it should be written on the tag so that the client or customer can check it. For example, Levis is writing on every pair of jeans they sell that they do CSR activities and also write that this pair of jeans is made from recycled textiles. The companies should be careful about how the cotton they are buying is planted, methods adopted for plantation should be eco-friendly, and it should be ensured that the way the fibres are produced do not harm our environment. I would advise any company to check that the companies they are dealing with are eco- friendly. This can be done by doing a proper research about the company, i.e. by visiting them or through the internet. Always check that the company is certified by some renowned organisation.

While adopting for ethical and eco-friendly business practices, how can an apparel maker maintain its profit levels as well? Does it actually need to raise the product cost?

No, it does not need to raise the product cost because we have to consider the long term and future benefits..It takes more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton. On the other hand, if we recycle textile the water consumption is just the half of this amount. A pair of jeans can be recycled 5 times, so I think the recycled product in future will not be so expensive. An apparel company should have a recycler attached to it, so that it becomes a closed loop process. Recycling can be done by using the contents which are already there on streets, collecting them and processing with a recycler. Levis is doing exemplary work in this regard. There are many other such producers who are making eco-friendly products while maintaining the profits and not increasing the cost.

Who are your current members and how this membership has helped them?

Unfortunately, we cannot give the names but BIR membership helps them with technical and legislative information, knowledge sharing. It helps the business survive because the organization is in constant contact with supranational organization such as OECD, EU institutions and the UN. Sometimes we explain to the third parties about the client party’s business and try to convince them by presenting a better picture. At times, we also give some legal aid to our clients to benefit their business.
Published on: 27/02/2014

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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