‘We are all making an effort to prepare the factory for this new working method’

‘We are all making an effort to prepare the factory for this new working method’


‘THE GREAT 8 OF CE’ is a blog series in which we ask Gispen employees eight questions about the circular economy. From our managing director to our factory workers, from the receptionist to the Support Manager. Every department is paid a visit, going through all layers of the origination. Transparency is vital for making the circular economy a success, and for this reason we are showing you how we are transitioning towards fully circular entrepreneurship.

The professional’s thoughts

We are not as occupied with new products as we used to be at the factory. What once began as a forge that only utilised new resources, is now a factory that refurbishes existing products. As a result, this meant that my position as team manager became redundant. In my new position as strategic warehouse manager, I manage the circular working method at the factory. I’m not someone who is inclined to say ‘no’. In fact, I was eager to take on the challenge. ‘So let’s start working on it!’

William van Beurden Strategic Warehouse Manager

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What is the definition of CE in your opinion?

The idea is to keep reusing raw materials for as long as possible. This means that goods are returned to the manufacturer for reuse and, by doing so, closing the material loop of the circular economy.

What does the circular economy mean to you?

You extract less energy from the planet, leaving some for our children. I think this is very important. The fact that fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, are running out is an increasing concern. We are forced to find other ways of producing and consuming. In Culemborg, for example, newly constructed houses are no longer supplied with a gas line. All the energy is generated from wind- and solar energy. The circular economy is an all-embracing concept.

How do you apply this philosophy at home?

We sort our household waste for as far as we can. Plastic, VFG, batteries, glass, it all gets disposed of separately. Waste that can only be dropped off at public refuse collection points, we collect and take ourselves. In addition, we sort all our old clothes and deposit them in our local clothing bin. At home, we have loads of LED lighting. My wife used to tell me: ‘The light that emits from it is much too cold and bright.’ Nowadays you can buy LED lighting that is just as warm as a regular bulb, which I now make sure I buy. At Gispen, many good cabinets get returned which we now convert into REMADE by Gispen cabinets. At home, we could also throw a great many things in the dumpster without even thinking about it, but we have found an alternative; Marktplaats, which is the Dutch equivalent of Craigslist. I’m currently renovating my backyard, for example, and I have a whole pile of tiles I won’t be using anymore. I’m not just going to throw them away. Instead, I will list them on Marktplaats, Facebook or the Neighbourhood App group to see whether someone else will have a use for them. I won’t ask any money for them. This way someone who is not so well off can use them.

We really live in a throwaway society. The other day I bought a new computer, but my old one could still be used for ‘light work’. We had it upgraded and this is now my wife’s new 'refurbished' computer. The one she had was of an older type which, in turn, is passed on to a company right here in Culemborg. This company does many great things, including refurbishing old bicycles for third-world countries. They also handle tools and computers, where they make one super computer out of two old ones. Reuse!

Why are you engaged in this at home?

Because there are plenty of products left that are worth reusing, but I also do it to save energy. Back in the day we had 50-watt light bulbs, whereas the LED bulbs of today only put out 2 or 3 watts. This is a good way to save on electricity costs. You save energy via the regular power net. I’m not really into solar energy yet. This requires you to make a substantial investment. I hope that the government will introduce new projects that include subsidy again. In Culemborg, household waste sorting is encouraged by the company that collects it. We pay for every time our grey bin is emptied. It has a chip in it that registers when it gets emptied, which costs 6 euros. The green bin and the one for plastic and cardboard is free, on the other hand. This is a good incentive for people to start sorting. In the future, they want to take this to an even higher level. The grey bins will disappear altogether and will be replaced by underground containers. I would also like to add that I’m amazed at the vast amounts of plastic packaging materials, which you really notice when you start sorting. A plastic wrapping with another plastic wrapping around it. It makes no sense at all. What a waste.

Are you noticing that Gispen is in a transition toward a circular economy?

What has come to my notice is that we are not as occupied with new products as we used to be at the factory. What once began as a forge that only utilised new resources, is now a factory that refurbishes existing products. This also meant that my position as team manager became redundant. In my new position as strategic warehouse manager, I manage the circular working method at the factory. I prepare the factory for new orders that come in, because we also use existing materials from non-Gispen desks and cabinets. This is all untrodden territory for us. I have been in this role for a year now. I have come to the realisation that every single order demands a great deal of dedication and that it brings its own complexities. Our Manager circular economy, Rick, is thinking about guarantees. At Gispen, we are all dedicated to preparing our company for the future and this new working method. Fantastic!

Two of our workers are currently busy taking apart old pieces of furniture for a project for ABN AMRO. The next step is to sort the components and to assess which are eligible for reuse. Components that are unfit for use, such as small steel brackets, are sent off to be melted down. The rest is sorted. Many of the crossbars and legs are remodelled in our metal shop. Whether things need repainting at our CO2-neutral paint shop is something we discuss with the client. We can also do touch-ups by hand where the pieces are welded together. After this process, the product will be cleaned and ready to ship off back to the client. We also have furniture coming in from UWV at the moment. They require smaller desks. We will shorten the frame and refurbish the mechanism. We keep the old tabletops, which we will reuse for some other purpose at a later time. The frames will not be painted, which UWV preferred. We simply give them a clean once they leave the metal shop. A municipality is considering whether to have its workstations upgraded with a sit/stand option. Whenever we get such a request, we first assess whether the item can be refurbished. I personally took apart one of their desks, which demanded some extra thinking and preparation because the desk was from an unknown supplier. The next step is to assess whether the operation is possible. This project includes a total of 300 desks! We expect to be able to build 250 REVIVED desks out of the lot.

Which country/company/initiative serves as an inspiration to you?

What I always find inspiring, and where they have been working on sustainability for years, is the automotive industry! They say: ‘All the cars we are currently manufacturing must be recyclable’. We no longer bring our old cars to a wrecking yard, we take them to a vehicle dismantler company. I have an old car myself, which is still a good driver. The other day one of the locks broke, and I set out to replace it. There is this website where you can publish a request for the type of lock you need. You then receive a call by a vehicle dismantler the same day who says: ‘I’ve got what you need’. Wow! You agree to a price and they will ship it to you. I think this is just a great example. There is not much more to the process than submitting a request from a central information point. Your inquiry is then sent to a number of dismantlers that might have the part you need. And, in my case, I received my lock through the post from Limburg the next day. A great example of a circular economy. No more car cemeteries; we now have neatly ordered, clean vehicle dismantler companies.

What is the best possible circular service for our clients?

In the future I foresee we will strip down entire offices and reuse everything right down to the last nut and bolt. Whether that’s a utopian vision, I’m not sure. Let’s take another look at the example of the vehicle dismantlers. If we were to incorporate this philosophy, we would have to invest in more storage space and be more active in furniture returns. A recent example is that of NS, who sent us two sofas for refurbishing and relocating. They no longer had a purpose for them. In our contract with NS it was included that we would dismantle and dispose of the products at the end of their lifecycles. A shame, really. That just doesn’t sit right with me. So, what could you do with such a contract to improve it? Establishing our own Marktplaats perhaps? A forum for clients such as NS who can make their old pieces of furniture available to other companies.

Please share your CE success story

My success story… It has only been a year since I started this particular job at Gispen. At home I’m quite busy sorting, which could be called a success on its own. The example of the plastic shopping bag for which we had to start paying is something I did not get at first. But now I realise what we are gaining by it. Listing items on Marktplaats is also something I would call a success. It can be quite time-consuming and you get people at your doorstep, but it always gives me a good feeling when I know something is given a new home. Looking at my work, I find success in satisfied clients. When their request is fulfilled and there are no complaints after delivery. This was the case with the Waterschap Rivierenland project, for which we altered a desk. I noticed that the tabletop was slightly sagging. I said to myself: ‘We can’t possibly present this to the client’. You then start thinking about a solution that doesn’t take a lot of labour, effort and cost. We decided to utilise an old U-shaped profile. I haven’t received any complaints, so I trust that they are satisfied with their product. That is my success story. Looking for solutions that solve problems.

Thank you, William. To whom will you pass on ‘THE GREAT EIGHT OF CE’?

I would like to pass on the baton to Henk Flipse, a close colleague of mine.