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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh can save $500m yearly by recycling textile waste

Given the current situation, sustainability and the readymade garment (RMG) have become interdependent

Update : 14 Mar 2023, 07:24 PM

Bangladesh can save nearly $500 million in imports if all its textile waste was recycled locally, experts said at a discussion on Tuesday.

They also said that given the current situation, sustainability and the readymade garment (RMG) have become interdependent. 

Moreover, sustainability and circularity are now no longer an option, but rather a reality.

They were speaking at a series of plenary sessions at the event titled “Promoting Circularity for a Sustainable RMG-sector in Bangladesh,” hosted by the Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh in the capital.

The event was organized also in cooperation with the Nordic Embassies -- Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- and Delegation of the European Union in Bangladesh.

In his speech at the chief guest, Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, said that with the collaboration of the government, brands, buyers, and the manufacturers, Bangladesh's apparel sector is the safest sourcing destination.

Currently the sector has 192 Leed-certified green factories, along with the highest rated factory, which is the commitment of the manufacturers toward the environment.

The Bangladeshi RMG sector is producing products where 75% of cotton and 25% are from manmade fibre (MMF). As Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter, it is also the second largest producer of the textile waste, he added.

Therefore, Bangladesh has a huge opportunity to develop the recycling sector.

He also said that a large amount of the waste is being exported, so Bangladesh should ban its export, which the government is already working on.

“We have to build up capacity and the collection process to do that. The BGMEA has much to do here,” he said, adding that it needed a central transition as the collection process is very important. 

He also said that in recycling, it needs to set up facilities, which requires research and development.

“However, recycling doesn't mean that 100% recycled cotton can be used. It requires an overall technological advancement,” Rahman further said.

To do that, brands should ensure fair prices as pricing is still an issue. Moreover, the Nordic countries should fund the investment to enable R&D and technology.

He also suggested focusing on post-production waste management.

In his speech, Faruque Hassan, president of BGMEA, said that aligning with the visions and strategies regarding circularity and sustainability, Bangladesh was showing the commitment to a cleaner future.

“Bangladesh RMG industry's march toward environmental sustainability is unprecedented and unmatched anywhere in the world,” he added.

They are also working from their side to fulfill the national and international goal by signing the UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter on Climate Action with the specific goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30% by 2030. 

Bangladesh is one of the largest producers of textile scraps in the world, around 400,000 tonnes of pre-consumer textile waste is produced annually, of which only 5% is recycled locally, he added.

This post-industrial textile waste, popularly known as "Jhut", has posed a different challenge to overcome in the path toward achieving circularity in the textile industry in Bangladesh. 

“He also urged brands to adopt inclusive strategies that include the SMEs in the equation and to ensure holistic, sustainable growth of the entire RMG industry in Bangladesh,” he added.

During the ambassadorial panel discussion, Charles Whiteley, ambassador and head of delegation of the European Union, stressed on the impact of upcoming policy developments regarding circularity and textile strategy in the EU which will affect Bangladesh. 

As Europe harbours on Agenda-2030 to close the loop by transitioning to a complete circular economy, Bangladesh must quickly respond to these latest policy developments in the textile sector of the European Market to keep the economy running at its current pace, he added.

Winnie Estrup Pettersen, ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh, highlighted the Danish contribution to the Circular Fashion Partnership with P4G and Danish Global Fashion Agenda. 

She mentioned that the Danish Embassy in Dhaka offers a dedicated team to customers to ensure sustainability and greening of value chains. 

Alexandra Berg von Linde, ambassador of Sweden to Bangladesh, spoke about the "Sustainable Fashion Platform" Initiative for the RMG industry and its outreach programs related to policy advocacy and match making. 

She also underlined the importance of the Swedish Credit Guarantee Scheme to aid technology transfer of cutting-edge Swedish solutions which can assist Bangladesh's continued economic growth.

Silje Fines Wannebo, Charge d'affaires, Royal Norwegian Embassy, emphasized the efforts of the Norwegian Embassy to combat water pollution, one of the major externalities created by the RMG sector in Bangladesh.

Policy roadmap

On another panel discussion titled “Policy and Roadmap Ahead”, Commerce Ministry Additional Secretary Md Hafizur Rahman, BKMEA Vice-President Akhter Hossain Apurbo, BGMEA Director Abdullah Hil Rakib, Reverse Resources Head of Operations Mumit Hasan, discussed about what policy and roadmap Bangladesh should follow. 

NCCI President Tahrin Aman marked the welcome speech where Tahmrin Falyaz Murshid Kazi, DG, Multilateral Economic Wing, Ministry of Foreign affairs, spoke as special guest.

Faisal Rabbi, stakeholder engagement and public affairs manager at H&M Group, presented on behalf of the Swedish textile brands.

The event also assisted manufacturers to better understand requirements of the buyers and align their business plans accordingly. 

The RMG sector accounts for over 80% of Bangladesh's total export to the world, earning over $42 billion in FY22.

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