Bangladesh Garment Industry Commits To Cotton Recycling

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Recycling 100% cotton waste could save Bangladesh half a billion USD in cotton imports alone.

  • New data reveals the valuable opportunity for fashion companies to implement circular systems in Bangladesh
  • 100% cotton waste in Bangladesh is worth over US$ 100 million in the recycling market
  • Benetton, Fashion Cube, Gymshark, Kiabi, Next, Primark and The Very Group are among the latest companies to join the Circular Fashion Partnership

Analysis conducted by the Circular Fashion Partnership has revealed the significant value in utilising textile waste more efficiently in Bangladesh. The Circular Fashion Partnership is a cross-sectorial project led by Global Fashion Agenda, with partners Reverse Resources, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and is supported by P4G, that aims to achieve a long-term, scalable transition to a circular fashion system.

The scale and value of Bangladesh textile waste
Its research has found that in 2019, Bangladesh produced approximately 577,000 tonnes of waste just from readymade garments (RMG) and fabrics mills, of which almost half (250,000 tonnes) was 100% cotton waste. It is estimated that factories in Bangladesh could sell this 100% cotton waste to the recycling market for up to US$ 100 million.

Bangladesh is currently heavily reliant on the importation of textile fibre. In 2019, the country imported 1.63 million tonnes of staple cotton fibre (with a value estimated to be US$ 3.5 billion). Based on the Circular Fashion Partnership findings, if just the 100% cotton waste was recycled within Bangladesh, imports could decrease by around 15%, thus saving half a billion dollars that would have been spent on cotton imports.

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More prestigious fashion companies are seizing the opportunity
Since its launch in November 2020, over 50 brands, manufacturers, recyclers and NGOs have signed up to take part in the Circular Fashion Partnership. The partnership supports the development of the textile recycling industry in Bangladesh by capturing and directing post-production fashion waste back into the production of new fashion products. In addition, the partnership seeks to find solutions for the Covid-19 related pile-up of deadstock and to engage regulators and investors around the current barriers and economic opportunities in the country. To do so, the initiative facilitates circular commercial collaborations between textile and garment manufacturers, recyclers and fashion brands operating in Bangladesh.

The participants include:

Brands: Benetton, Fashion Cube, Gymshark, Kiabi, Next, Primark, The Very Group and Teddy SpA
Manufacturers: AKM Knitwear, Aman Group, Asrotex, Aukotex, Beximco, Bitopi Group (Tarasima), Cute Dress, Echotex Ltd, Epillyon, Fakir Fashions, Fakir Knitwear, Genesis, GMS, Impress, Interstoff, J.M. Fabrics JL Sweaters, Knit Asia Group, MAS Intimates, Meghna Knit Composite, Natural Denim Ltd., Norp Knit Industries Ltd. Unit-2, Northern, Ocean Sweaters Ltd, Ratul Group (Knitwear & Fabric), Reedisha Group, Rising Tex, Sakura, SB Style, Shasha Garments, Simple Approach, Tarasima Group, Urmi, Vintage (ABA Group)

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Recyclers: Bangladesh Petrochemical Company Ltd. (BPCL), Circ, Circular Systems, Ecolife, Evrnu, Natural Fiber Welding (NFW), Officina+39, SC Grand Plus, the partnership has welcomed new affiliate partners including Fashion for Good, the Danish Embassy in Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi Embassy in Denmark and McKinsey & Co. The affiliate partners will contribute by sharing knowledge, networks, exposure and unlocking investment opportunities for the development of the textile recycling industry in Bangladesh.

The Circular Fashion Partnership is now closed for new participants. However, the organisers hope to continue the project and expand it to other key production countries such as Indonesia, India or Vietnam – in the future. Learnings from the work conducted in Bangladesh will be published in an openly available ‘Circularity Playbook’ later in the year.

Federica Marchionni, CEO, Global Fashion Agenda says: “In order for fashion to continue to prosper within planetary boundaries, we need to urgently embrace the opportunities of a circular economy. Using the Reverse Resources technology platform, we have been able to map participants’ textile waste to grasp its scale and quantify the economic opportunity of closing the loop. These findings demonstrate that a circular fashion system could breed not only environmental but financial benefits for a country. It is wonderful to see so many esteemed parties joining us on our journey to circularity and I hope that the business model being developed in Bangladesh will be replicated in other countries around the world.”

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Nin Castle, Head of Recycling and Chief Project Officer, Reverse Resources, says: “Bangladesh produces arguably the most recyclable textile waste of any apparel producing country.

With the emergence of new and improved versions of existing recycling technologies, Bangladesh has a huge opportunity to scale its local recycling capacity and accordingly reduce its dependency on virgin raw materials. If a recycling industry is fostered now, it would enable the country to not only enjoy the obvious benefits of cost and carbon footprint reduction but also gain a massive competitive edge.”

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