By Molly Polk Hannon
East of India, nestled near the Bay of Bengal, lies Bangladesh, a country that boasts a population of over 161 million people. Bangladesh also accounts for around 5% of the world’s textile production, making it the second leading clothing exporter worldwide—the first being China. Bangladesh is also where the tragic 2013 Rana Plaza Factory collapse occurred, sparking a global outcry against the fast fashion’s flawed operations, particularly the poor working conditions of its foreign factory workers.
Since then, Bangladesh has become a primary focus amongst fashion sustainability activists, set on improving social justice in the supply chain as well as enhancing efforts to curb textile waste and help major textile-producing countries, like Bangladesh, transition to a circular economy.
Emblematic of this focus is the 1-year Circular Fashion Partnership launching 30 November, 2020, a cross-sectoral project aimed at supporting the development of the recycling industry in Bangladesh. Lead by the Global Fashion Agenda, the Circular Fashion Partnership is made possible by P4G together with project partner Reverse Resources, BGMEA, along with textile and garment manufacturers, recyclers and major fashion brands operating in Bangladesh.
The mission of the partnership is to support the development of the recycling industry in Bangladesh by capturing and directing post-production fashion waste back into the production of new fashion products and seeking solutions for COVID19-related build-up of deadstock.
Significant value proposition for recycling
As one of the leading textile producers worldwide, it should come as no surprise that the Bangladeshi textile production not only contributes to clothing exports, but also to waste.
New data from Reverse Resources shows that Bangladesh typically features very large factories, with the vast majority being CMT (Cut Make Trim) units and that Bangladesh is a major producer of 100% cotton and cotton-rich fabrics & garments, which is a more waste-intensive fiber than synthetics (especially at the spinning stage).
Furthermore, according to Reverse Resources Bangladesh is one of the biggest countries for deadstock volumes, ranked 2nd in average deadstock volume per country within the Reverse Resources database, with an estimated average deadstock wastage rate of 4.5%. The very large majority of deadstock is currently sold to a trader or waste handler for about ⅓ of its original material price.
Reverse Ressource concludes that as a result, Bangladeshi facilities report some of the highest average waste volumes globally. Because of the specialism in cotton and cotton rich textiles, and large volumes per colour Bangladeshi factories typically produce very high value waste, ideal for existing recycling technologies. And as a bitter effect, that textile waste is very often dealt within an informal market (mafia) through a multi-layered system of traders and buyers through which prices are inflated, there is no traceability and contamination is impossible to control.
It’s only waste if it goes to waste
Developing recycling is a solution for the massive quantities of what is now considered to be waste but is actually a valuable resource. Bangladesh is the largest exporter of textile waste globally, the majority of which is now exported to India for recycling, which shows its value. A value that can be kept in Bangladesh if it is recycled and by doing so, instilling sustainable practices for an industry that is a powerful engine for economic growth and opportunity for many Bangladeshis.
Said Nin Castle Co founder and Head of Recycling at Reverse Resources: “The existing waste handling practices and informal trading network is creating huge inefficiencies, through our platform factories earn on average 4 times more for their segregated waste whilst we simultaneously can reduce costs and increase quality for recyclers, creating a win-win business case for all involved.”
It is still possible to join the Circular Fashion Partnership if you are a brand, manufacturer or recycling solution provider. For fashion companies such as Danish BESTSELLER, who has already joined, the Circular Fashion Partnership serves as a natural extension of their own efforts to become circular. As much of their production takes place in Bangladesh, the partnership offers a rare opportunity.
“We want to explore how we can keep the cotton waste in Bangladesh and set up workable circularity systems there, instead of shipping the waste, yarns and fabrics back and forth,” said Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, BESTSELLER’s Sustainability Materials & Innovation Manager. “Keeping the waste in Bangladesh benefits both economic and environmental perspectives which we value immensely. Our end goal is to succeed in implementing effective waste stream structures and make sure that waste is regarded as a valuable resource for brands and suppliers.”
Registration to join the partnership is currently open. We here at Global Fashion Agenda welcome all brands and manufacturers working in Bangladesh and global recycling solutions to contact us at email@example.com to learn more about how to join us in this critical endeavour.
Want to learn more on the 2020 take on circular fashion? Register here to join us for our online Circular Fashion Event on 30 November, 3-5pm CET.
Even more curious? Check out the 2020 Commitment Report, which outlines efforts to accelerate the fashion industry’s efforts to a circular economy, as well as read our most recent report, Fashion on Climate, produced together with our Strategic Knowledge Partner, McKinsey & Company.
Photo Credit: Tapash Paul/Drik Gallery