Study: $0.70 lost for every piece of apparel export

The study also said that a big volume of waste is generated as a byproduct of the manufacturing processes

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The apparel sector of Bangladesh is losing $0.70 for every piece of apparel the country exports, said a new study.

The study also said that a big volume of waste is generated as byproducts of the manufacturing processes. 

The common wastes of the textile and apparel manufacturing processes are cotton lint, damaged yarn, fly fibre, scrap yarn, greige, rejected coloured fabric, excess finished fabric, unfinished fabric, unfinished cones, fabric cut pieces, excess apparel etc, the study said.

The study titled “Textile-Apparel Manufacturing and Material Waste Management in the Circular Economy: A Conceptual Model to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 for Bangladesh” was conducted by some scholars of Bangladesh University of Textiles (Butex).

Maeen Md Khairul Akter, the lead researcher and Assistant Professor of the Department of Textile Engineering Management at the Butex recapitulated their research.

The research team collected data from the value streams of 17 textiles and apparel factories and found varying amounts of waste and excess inventory in each node of the value chain. 

According to the study, the spinning phase was the worst offender, yielding the most material loss at 63%. 

This was followed by wet-processing at 34%, apparel production at 20% and fabric manufacturing at 10%. 

Translated into monetary terms using current market prices, every 100 grams of wasted material cost manufacturers between $30 and $177, the study found.

The study also said that most of the overstock and wasted material is sold off cheaply at local and informal markets which lead to result in a “significant loss of value addition” that could have been added through reuse or upcycling. 

These subsequent wastages in various stages of the apparel manufacturing process ultimately cause a loss of $0.70 for a single piece of apparel, the study said. 

Researchers also said that although it is an approximate valuation based on primary data from this research and analysis, it contributes to the quantitative aspects of textiles and apparel production waste, a knowledge gap identified in the literature.

According to the study, the “jhut” or “cutting waste” markets themselves are an example of the circular economy since the waste is converted into a resource, reducing their negative environmental impact. 

However, this route leads to a “significant opportunity loss of value addition” that could boost Bangladesh’s economy.

Because the markets are underground, the occupational health and safety of the workers are “completely overlooked.” To protect domestic trade, local laws prohibit the sale of fabric or apparel produced and imported under a duty-free bonded-warehouse license.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune regarding wastage in the apparel sector, Mohiuddin Rubel, director of Denim Expert Limited, and also a director of the BGMEA, said that it is true that Bangladesh is lagging behind in this aspect.

“In particular, we are behind China and Vietnam. Our position in this place is not strong, our waste rate is much higher than other competitors,” he added.

He also said that if this waste amount could be reduced, it would add to the profits of the manufacturers and the export earnings would be higher.

“However, we are somehow new in the implementation of the technology in the apparel industry, we have not yet made full progress in this sector. There are many opportunities for work and progress,” he added.

The study also identified the way forwards like establishing a practical waste management strategy within the scope of the circular economy can be an effective solution to support SDG 12.

“This would prevent increased landfill waste, promote natural resource efficiency, reduce energy consumption and environmental footprints, and also open new business opportunities,” said the study.

The study also said that the traceability of the production waste is essential and can be achieved through collaborations among manufacturers, buyers, government, consumers and practitioners to ensure optimum utilization for achieving sustainability through a circular economy. 

Faruque Hassan, president of the BGMEA said in his presentation at International Investment Summit 2021 that to close the waste circularity gap, they established P4G funded “Circular Fashion Partnership” initiative aiming to achieve a long-term, scalable transition to a circular fashion system that produces new, low carbon footprint and responsibly-made products.

“BGMEA already partnered with Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) and Reverse Resources (RR), with 19 brands, 17 recyclers and 85 manufacturers on board,” he added.

He also said that BGMEA is continuously striving towards achieving SDG 12 on ‘Responsible consumption and production’ through the circular economy and it contributed to Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ‘Vision of a circular economy for fashion’ report.

Earlier, regarding his expectation in 2022, he told Dhaka Tribune that the manufacturers expect that they will focus on establishing a sustainable, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly apparel industry.

“We want to put more effort on recycling, circular economy, and innovation,” he added. 

Mohiuddin Rubel said that they can reduce the amount of waste through the implementation of waste management technology, proper training and education, factory willingness to set up technology, etc.

Moreover, according to a report by GFA, the fashion industry could become 80% circular by 2030 if there is increased investment in existing recycling technologies and infrastructures.

It also demonstrates that pre-competitive collaborations can play a critical role in accelerating the industry’s transition to sustainable and inclusive growth, focusing on the case study of textile recycling.

Earlier, in the debut speech of Reverse Resources, Nin Castle, head of recycling and chief project officer, said that Bangladesh produces arguably the most recyclable textile waste of any apparel producing country. 

However, Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest apparel exporting country where the apparel sector makes up 83% of the country’s total exports and 16% of GDP. 

So, Bangladesh can play a vital role in transforming to a sustainable and circular economy with the joint initiatives of the government, brands, and manufacturers.

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