Circularity is our future- We are taking all our steps to promote a circular economy

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It’s true that the concept of circular economy is a little unconventional for us; in fact, BGMEA is organizing today’s dialogue of this scale and stature for the first time. In our journey of more than four decades, we laid a strong foundation in this textile and clothing industry, and in our journey ahead, we have committed to putting the utmost importance on sustainability, aligning with the SDG vision and mission of the Government of Bangladesh.

Photo: Faruque Hassan, President , BGMEA

In the ever-changing global fashion and apparel industry, climate and environmental due diligence are the buzzwords now. While consumers across the world are becoming increasingly conscious of ethical products, transparency as well as prefer circularity, for us the challenge is to integrate sustainability into the business.

Keeping that in mind, we are realigning our priorities with the commitment of continuously delivering the better. You are perhaps aware that the current Board of BGMEA has renewed its vision and corporate logo. The ‘9-dot’ corporate logo that we have today represents nine commitments, and CIRUCULARITY is one of them. Our goal is to help conserve the natural ecosystem as much as possible via an economic shift from a liner to a circular system.

We have all gathered here to align ourselves on this vision and mission, and I am glad to see the presence of all the important stakeholders including brands and retailers, my fellow entrepreneurs and waste handlers. And I must thank our Chief Guest Honorable Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury for his gracious presence. We are always inspired by your affection and affiliation with this industry.

The readymade garment industry in Bangladesh, so far, has followed a linear business model of cradle to grave. The trajectory needs to change if we are to sustain. Globally, the fashion industry makes a huge impact on climate, and brands and retailers are now committing themselves to become climate neutral, eventually carbon positive. The circular economy can build a pathway for greater environmental sustainability coupled with economic growth. Let me share a few facts on why we believe circular fashion and textile recycling may open a new horizon for our industry.

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 and over 35% is incinerated in boiler or landfilled. This post-industrial textile waste, popularly known as “Jhut”, has posed a different challenge to overcome on the path towards achieving circularity in the textile industry in Bangladesh. In terms of production leftovers, at the moment, an average Bangladeshi RMG factory generates between 250 and 300 kilograms of waste fabric every day and according to reports by Reverse Resources, the price of waste fabric varies according to its quality and size, starting at TK 10 and rising to TK 300 per kilogram. In the majority of cases, this waste remains an unsegregated, contaminated burden on the producers, who sell it at the lowest value to the stakeholders. Now, we can establish a new economic sector altogether if we recycle and re-use those textile wastes.

Encouraging to note that entrepreneurs are investing in the recycling industry already. We now have 23 recycled fibre mills with the capacity of producing 2,20,000 tons of recycled fibre annually. And we have 61 yarn manufacturing mills having Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certification. More than 14 mills are going to get the GRS certification soon. In contrast to this growing investment in recycled fibre and yarn, the RMG industry generates 5,77,000 tons of textile wastage, which is inadequate to meet the demand for recycled fibre and yarn. So we need to import textile waste and mutilated garments to meet the demand. We have already approached our government to waive the 7.5% and 15% VAT on local mills producing recycled fibre and yarn, and waiver of duty on imported cotton waste, clips and mutilated garments to ensure an adequate supply of raw materials for locally established Recycle Fiber production mills. Here, I would like to request kind intervention by our Honorable Chief Guest to expedite the required policy reforms.    

In addition to the need for policy support, we need a number of enabling factors to build a circular eco-system for our industry. We need finance, technologies and skilled people at the right proportion to support the transition toward circularity. I hope today’s discussions will shed more light on identifying gaps and suggesting measures.

I would like to take this opportunity to address our valued buyers, present here. We are grateful for the role you have been playing so far, not only for sourcing from us but also for the partnership in building the critical foundation of this industry  

Your support will be crucial for us in our journey to circular economy, particularly with regard to establishing a circular supply chain, circular design, and circular fashion items. I know you are already ahead of us with exciting innovations and technologies, some of you already have innovations like garment-to-garment recycling machines in your stores. These are amazing. While you focus more on post-consumer wastes, I would urge you to pay more attention to post-industrial wastes as well, which is a core part of the circular supply chain. As we move from the ‘New Normal’ to the ‘Next Normal’, the idea of “fast fashion” has to be recalibrated with the emerging norms of “Circular Fashion”.  

In the past decade we have quickly transformed our industry as a responsible undertaking – be it social or environmental. Today, Bangladesh is probably one of the safest and cleanest apparel manufacturing countries in the world, which offers the best sustainable solution to our valued clients. Bangladesh is now the home of the highest number of green garment factories in the world with 200 LEED-certified factories of which 73 are platinum-rated. 13 out of the world’s top 15 garment factories are in Bangladesh. The legacy needs to be continued as we champion the causes of serving sustainability better. We would like to establish ourselves as a global recycling hub, and further contribute to our economy, as much as we could impact our climate positively.

I firmly believe that Circularity is our future and winners will be the companies that can make early steps and take and circular business models to scale.

From BGMEA we are taking all out steps to promote a circular economy. I would particularly like to thank the partners of the BESTSELLER Switch to Upstream Circularity program, Bestseller, Chatham House, Circle Economy, Global Fashion Agenda and Reverse Resources, European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and UNIDO. We are also working with several other partners on it, especially with H&M Group on the circular and climate-neutral garment industry in Bangladesh. We have recently visited the Stockholm plant of Renewcell to enlighten ourselves on textile recycling technologies and processes.

We are not limited to pre-consumer waste only, we are also exploring opportunities across the supply chain. Currently, we are in discussion with a leading cement manufacturing company to explore the use of ETP sludge. I am sure I will be able to update you with positive findings soon.