Bangladesh’s textile industry could tap into a lucrative annual revenue of at least $6 billion by prioritizing recycling. It will halt the cheap export of throwaway garment waste, assert visionary entrepreneurs. This call to action stems from the mounting possibilities inherent in these discarded materials.
With the increasing recognition of the colossal environmental consequences of the fashion industry, a growing number of Western companies – from fast-fashion retailers to luxury brands – are now embracing garments crafted from recycled or sustainably sourced materials.
Bangladesh, a prominent player in the apparel export arena, ships clothing goods worth approximately $47 billion yearly.
Yet, these factories generate an estimated 0.4-0.5 million tonnes of textile waste, often referred to as ‘jhut,’.
According to industry insiders, this waste comprises cuttings, scraps, and fluff.
Around 20,000 to 22,000 traders partake in the jhut business, largely engaged in informal waste processing, which employs approximately 600,000 workers, primarily women. The ripple effect of this sector extends to 1 million individuals who indirectly rely on the garment sub-sector.
A segment of these traders, roughly 300, conduct export operations, shipping waste to diverse destinations at lower costs.
The buyers of this waste capitalize on recycling and reusing.
Presently, only about 5% of the waste is recycled by certain ready-made garment manufacturers, directly exporting the bulk.
Entrepreneurs suggest that stopping the cheap export of this waste and fostering recycling practices could unleash a substantial economic surge for the nation.
Moreover, as Western countries show an increased appetite for products made from recycled materials, particularly garments, this move aligns well with the global trend towards sustainability.
The Bangladesh Textile and Garment Waste Processors and Exporters Association (BTGWPEA) estimates the value of garment waste exported annually to be around $500-600 million, whereas the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) reported jhut exports at $116.54 million in the last fiscal year (FY23), up from $64.68 million in FY 2018-19.
To realize this transformative vision, stakeholders emphasize the need for proper policy support, effective waste collection mechanisms, and streamlined recycling procedures. Recycling initiatives offer economic potential and bear environmental and social benefits, making the case for a paradigm shift in Bangladesh’s textile industry.
As the world transitions towards circular economies and responsible production, it’s clear that the nation’s garment waste could be a wellspring of economic growth, job creation, and sustainability if harnessed effectively.