In the vibrant landscape of Bangladesh’s circular industry, a profound transformation towards sustainable living and resource preservation unfolds. The nation’s commitment to optimizing resource utilization recognizes the profound impact of resources on the economy, ecology, culture, and overall standard of living. As Bangladesh embraces a more sustainable and resource-efficient model, the circular industry approach takes center stage, weaving an array of reuse and recycling practices across sectors.
Thirty-four nations worldwide, including Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, and others, have vowed to change their linear economic structure to a circular one. This may result in long-term effects on the economy, society, and natural resources. Bangladesh is also walking on the same path. The journey has started, and to date, some ramifications are also there.
Reuse in different sectors
Reusing materials is highly valued in Bangladesh’s circular economy, which includes the country’s textile, packaging, and building industries. For instance, programs like the ‘redesign, repair, and resale’ concept, which involves repairing and reselling used clothing instead of throwing it away, are being promoted in the textile industry. Innovative techniques like upcycling and reusing used textiles into new goods are also becoming more and more admired. Companies in the packaging industry are looking for alternatives to single-use packaging materials. Reusable packaging choices, including reusable containers and eco-friendly bags, are being promoted to cut down on trash production. Similar initiatives are being made to encourage the use of recycled materials in the construction sector, including bricks from recycled plastic or glass.
The ‘Circular Fashion Partnership,’ which aims to achieve a scalable transition to a circular fashion system, consists of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), Reverse Resources, and P4G. To collect and reuse textile waste in Bangladesh, more than 30 well-known fashion companies, producers, and recyclers are working together as part of this effort.
Bershka, Bestseller, C&A, Gina Tricot, Grey State, H&M Group, Kmart Australia, Marks & Spencer, OVS, Pull & Bear, Peak Performance, and Target Australia are a few notable participants. Through the alliance, big fashion companies, textile producers, and recyclers can collaborate to create new fashion goods by developing and implementing systems that repurpose post-production fashion waste.
During mid-June 2023, Bangladesh Apparel Exchange organized the ‘Bangladesh Circular Economy Summit’ in association with P4G and collaboration with Laudes Foundation. GIZ, the H&M Group, and the Dutch Embassy in Bangladesh are the sponsors of the meeting. The plenary sessions covered topics such as ‘Lessons Learned and Next Steps for Post-Industrial Recycling in Bangladesh – Practical and Tangible Advice and Actions for Progress,’ ‘Circular Cities,’ ‘Accelerating Circular Economy in Apparel and Textile – The Role of Policy,’ and ‘Lessons Learned and Next Steps for Post-Industrial Recycling in Bangladesh – Practical and Tangible Advice and Actions for Progress.’ The keynote speeches included ‘Circular Economy Myth Busting: A Shared Understanding,’ ‘Circular Economy in Bangladesh: Challenges and Opportunities,’ and ‘Circular Business Models and Design for the Apparel Industry in Bangladesh.’
During the program, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Bangladesh, Anne Van Leeuwen, praised Bangladesh’s development and proposed that Bangladesh might lead the way in the circular economy. The H&M Group’s Leyla Ertur, head of sustainability, recognized Bangladesh’s potential to draw domestic and international investment to scale up manufacturing of high-value recycled fibers. She emphasized, however, that for advancement to be possible, waste management policies must be addressed.
‘Plastic waste recycling: investment progress, challenges, and the way forward’ was held on January 4, 2023, at the Cirdap International Conference Center in Dhaka.
One such example is the creation of e-waste recycling facilities, where electronic items are disassembled and recycled to recover valuable materials. Under the Bangladesh Environmental Protection Act of 1995, the Department of Environment (DoE) of the Government of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh released its ‘Hazardous Waste (e-waste) Management Rules 2021’ on June 10, 2021. The country’s registered electronic waste producers and recyclers must submit their WEEE management plans according to the law.
Bangladesh has advanced significantly in the field of plastic recycling. A program known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has been established, and it holds plastic manufacturers responsible for the management and recycling of their products. Additionally, the government has supported the construction of plastic recycling facilities and incentivized businesses to participate in the recycling process. These actions have raised the percentage of recycled plastic and developed a thriving recycling sector.
Government plans for circular industries
The Draft National Plastic Industry Development Policy 2020, along with existing policies for export, import, industries, and small and medium enterprises, aims to ensure the success of the plastic industry in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh has recognized the importance of transitioning to a circular economy and has outlined various plans and strategies to foster its development.
The ‘Seventh Five-Year Plan (2016-2020)’ prioritized the development of sustainable industries, focusing on resource efficiency, waste reduction, and recycling, which can be stated as a 4R policy (reduce, reuse, recycle, reclaim). Besides, implementing environmental pollution control measures under the Draft National Plastic Industry Development Policy 2020. Cash rewards would be offered for their purchase and installation to incentivize the adoption of waste treatment facilities. A tax break is another incentive for producing environmentally friendly items, including renewable paper products, energy-efficient appliances, and recycled materials. All were well documented on the plan.
Moreover, the government has set targets to increase the share of renewable energy, promote eco-friendly industrial practices, and reduce waste generation. The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change formulated the ‘Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009’ to address the challenges posed by climate change and promote sustainable development. The action plan emphasizes the importance of circular economy principles, including waste reduction, recycling, and adopting eco-friendly technologies.
Plastic recycling and initiatives
In Dhaka, recycling accounts for 37.2% of waste plastic, according to Word Bank in 2021. In 2020, 977,000 tonnes of plastic were used, and 31% was recycled. Bangladesh produced 8.25 lakh tonnes of plastic garbage in 2019, with 36% of that debris recycled.
Plastic pollution is a major problem in Bangladesh, especially in cities and around waterways. The government has taken several actions to solve this problem and encourage plastic recycling. The National Action Plan for Sustainable Plastic Management emphasizes the cyclical use of plastic, which is based on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) idea. These regulations forbid the use of single-use plastics and require the use of eco-friendly packaging materials. The government established plastic recycling facilities and promoted recycling awareness by working with various partners, including NGOs and commercial businesses. While generating job opportunities in the recycling industry, these programs seek to lessen the negative effects of plastic waste on the environment.
Bangladesh’s dedication to sustainable development and resource preservation is fueling the growth of the circular economy in the nation. The country is in an excellent spot to advance further toward a more sustainable and ecologically friendly future with continued efforts and cooperation between the government, companies, and citizens.
Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA)