Bangladesh will be able to save nearly $500 million in yarn imports annually if the country can recycle all cotton textile wastes locally, said apparel industry experts.
Due to a lack of policy and industrial recycling capacity, about two-thirds of local valuable post-industrial waste materials are currently being exported and the country is losing the opportunity to benefit from these wastes, industry leaders said at a discussion, "Promoting Circularity for a Sustainable RMG-sector in Bangladesh".
The Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) in Bangladesh, in collaboration with sustainable fashion platforms and the Nordic embassies, organised the event at the Sheraton Dhaka hotel in the capital on Tuesday.
According to the NCCI estimates, the country's apparel industry produces about 5.77 lakh tonnes of textile waste every year.
These wastes are exported, mainly to India, and used as raw materials for recycled yarn. Bangladesh then imports these yarns.
In the keynote presentation, Faisal Rabbi, manager of Stakeholder Engagement and Public Affairs at H&M Group, Bangladesh, said three brands – Lindex, H&M Group and IKEA — have set their own targets of using 100% recycled or sustainable materials for their apparel by 2030. Before that, Lindex and H&M Group are committed to using 15% and 30% recycled materials, respectively, by 2025.
"We are eager to continue our dialogue with both government and private sector stakeholders to create a supportive policy environment for textile waste recycling," he said.
Gagan Bansal, head of Material Innovation and Strategy at H&M Group, said, "Bangladesh has always been at the forefront of driving positive change in the fashion industry. Now is the time for the country to take even bigger steps forward by embracing new, innovative technologies and implementing policies and regulations that support circularity."
In his speech as the chief guest, Salman F Rahman, Private Industry and Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister, said the apparel sector of the country is the safest sourcing destination because of the collaboration of the government, brands, buyers, and manufacturers.
Bangladesh has a huge opportunity to develop the textile recycling sector, he said, adding that the government is planning to formulate a policy to ensure the availability of raw materials.
"A large amount of the waste is being exported. Bangladesh should stop this export and the government is working on it," he said.
Setting up textile waste recycling facilities requires overall technological advancement as well as research and development, Salman F Rahman said, seeking investment from the Nordic countries for research and development.
Speaking on the occasion, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said Bangladesh has been demonstrating a commitment to a cleaner and brighter future, aligned with visions and strategies regarding circularity and sustainability.
"Bangladesh RMG industry's progress toward environmental sustainability is unprecedented and unmatched anywhere in the world," he said.
"Our factories are also working to fulfill national and international goals by signing the UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter on Climate Action with the specific goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30% by 2030," Faruque Hassan said.
Bangladesh is one of the largest producers of textile scraps in the world. Around four lakh tonnes of pre-consumer textile wastes are produced annually, of which only 5% is recycled locally, the BGMEA president added.
NCCI President Tahrin Aman marked the welcome speech where Tahmrin Falyaz Murshid Kazi, DG of the Multilateral Economic Wing at the Ministry of Foreign affairs spoke as a special guest at the discussion.
Charles Whiteley, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union, Winnie Estrup Pettersen, Ambassador of Denmark, Alexandra Berg von Linde, Ambassador of Sweden and Silje Fines Wannebo, Chargé d'Affaires of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, spoke during the ambassadorial panel discussion.
In another panel discussion, "Policy and Roadmap Ahead", Additional Secretary to the Commerce Ministry Md Hafizur Rahman, BKMEA Vice President Akhter Hossain Apurbo, BGMEA Director Abdullah Hil Rakib and others discussed the policy and roadmap Bangladesh should follow.