Gebroeders van der Geest
Textile waste is turned into an innovative and sustainable wall covering.
Your old jeans as decoration on the walls of your living room? Denimtex, a subsidiary of Gebr. Van der Geest, has made that possible with its innovative wall covering. “It is like decorative plaster made from jeans fibers. Unique, sustainable and circular,” says inventor Bas van der Geest. The Innovate Go program is helping Bas and his colleague Kathrin Vulic, research developer at Denimtex, get their innovation ready for market.
“Approximately seventy percent of our old textile is incinerated,” says Bas van der Geest, co-director of property maintenance organization Gebroeders Van der Geest. “Worn-out clothing as well as overproduction are simply destroyed. There has to be a better way.” In 2017, he got a garbage bag full of fibers from a company that turns old textile into fibers for reuse. He asked his children to think along about possible applications for the material. “We sat down and got to work together. My son came up with idea to dry the wet mass on boards in the oven. That led to the idea of using denim as wall covering.”
One hundred percent circular
Together with students from Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Bas developed the idea further. They made gradual progress year after year. As part of her graduation project, Kathrin Vulic developed a new binding agent for Jeans on the Wall in 2020. Since the start of this year, she is responsible for product and market development at Denimtex. Kathrin: “We now have a product that can be applied to walls like decorative plaster. It has insulating, noise-reducing and fire-retardant properties and a warm appearance. The product can be taken off one wall and reapplied on a different wall. By making the wall wet, you can easily remove the material and reuse it elsewhere without compromising its properties. This makes the material one hundred percent circular.”
Innovate GO helps expedite innovation
In recent years, the emphasis has mainly been on product development. As part of the SME program Innovate GO, they are now focusing more on the sales aspects. “Novel-T’s program is a real innovation booster,” Kathrin says. “It has really helped us look at the business side of our operation and work towards a product launch. I have learned so much these past three months. It is like a fast-track study of innovation.” Kathrin meets up with her coach Liz every week to reflect on what they have achieved thus far and what they are working towards. “We are currently focusing on the business-to-business market, but we plan to open the doors of our webshop to private consumers as well by the end of the summer.”
SMEs are the instigators of innovation
It is worth mentioning that this is not the first innovation developed by this company from Twente. “A few years ago, we developed a ‘green’ paint made from linseed oil. We also came up with a biobased gel to store used paintbrushes in. It keeps the hairs soft and makes it easier for painters to reuse their brushes. Nowadays, that gel is used everywhere from America to Australia. “Innovation is the best part of our organization,” Bas says. “For us, innovation is inextricably linked to sustainability.” Bas believes innovation mainly comes from SMEs. “Large corporations such as Philips and Shell do not care about innovation. They will simply buy an idea once it is finished. SMEs and family businesses are the true instigators of innovation and our economy because they are so flexible.”
Twente as a textile region
Bas and Kathrin have great plans for Denimtex. “We want to offer new residual streams from the local market, create a dry version of the material and develop a textile paint,” Kathrin summarizes. Bas adds: “The development process never ends. In composite form, textile could be used as a new construction material to replace wood, metal or concrete. I believe simply throwing it away has become a thing of the past. My dream is to bring back the textile industry – version 5.0 – to the region within the next five years or so. Create new job opportunities, realize wealth and put Twente back on the map as a textile region.”
Are you interested in expediting your own business case’s path to market?
Innovate GO is a unique accelerator program developed by Novel-T and the province of Overijssel that is specifically designed to support SMEs. In a hands-on program, entrepreneurs work together in teams to develop and market their business cases. They receive the guidance, coaching and knowledge they need to take their initial steps towards their market. Want to know more about the possibilities for your innovation?