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Second life for textiles


EAST-WEST is specialized in the collection, sorting and recycling of used textiles. Founded by honorary senator Zeki Kursun in 1989, the company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The family business was one of the first textile recycling firms in Germany to be certified as a waste management company. Since the very start, EAST-WEST has been dedicated to the recycling of textiles in an environmentally compatible way and to a degree of 100%.

Today, the company operates more than 3,000 recycling banks for used textiles in Germany and employs 170 people at the head office in Langen-Debstedt near Bremerhaven. Worldwide, over 500 people work for the mediumsized family enterprise: in South America, West and East Africa, and Southern and Eastern Europe. “Every year, we process more than 12,000 t of used textiles,” General Manager Umut Kursun, the son of the founder, describes the dimension of the company, which ranks among Germany’s top ten textile recycling businesses. A year to remember in the development of EAST-WEST is 2010 when the company received two coveted awards: the innovation prize Entrepreneur of the Year by the city of Langen and the honorary prize of the German Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for its support of charitable work.

In 2011, EAST-WEST invested in a new, high-performance sorting plant, which was inaugurated by Minister for the Environment of Lower Saxony Hans-Heinrich Sander. More than 50% of the used textiles collected and sorted by EAST-WEST are shipped to Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkan states, Asia and South America, where they get the chance for a second life. Used curtains, for instance, make a perfect mosquito net in Africa.

“70% of the world population wear second-hand clothes,” says Mr. Kursun. “Only textiles that really can’t be worn any more are processed in another way.” The main customers of EAST-WEST are importers from Africa and Eastern Europe. “My father is constantly travelling to the various markets, from country to country,” explains Mr. Kursun. With its widespread recycling activities, EAST-WEST is making a significant contribution to saving scarce natural resources. At the same time, the socially responsible company is giving a chance to disadvantaged people by employing handicapped people.

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