June 23, 2021

How Bangladesh wants to become a leader in circularity

4 min read

Over 30 renowned fashion brands, manufacturers and recyclers are collaborating in Circular Fashion Partnership, a new initiative by Global Fashion Agenda, a forum for industry collaborations on fashion sustainability.

The aim of the cross-sector partnership is to capture and reuse textile waste in Bangladesh, and facilitate circular commercial collaborations to develop and reach scalable new systems that can help reuse post-production fashion waste by putting it back into new fashion products. The initiative also hopes to find solutions for the Covid-19 related pile-up of deadstock and create new economic opportunities in the country.

The partnership is still welcoming new applicants but current participating brands, garment manufacturers and recyclers include Bershka, Bestseller, C&A, H&M Group, Kmart Australia, Marks & Spencer, OVS, Pull & Bear, Peak Performance and Target Australia among brands; Amantex, Asrotex Group, Auko-tex Group, Aurum Sweaters, Beximco, Bitopi, Knit Asia, MAS Intimates, Ratul Group (Knitwear & Fabric), Salek Textiles, S. B Knite Composite (Sankura Dyeing and Garments) and the Northern Group among manufacturers; Cyclo, Infinited Fiber Company, Malek Spinning Mills, Marchi & Fildi Spa, Lenzing AG, Recovertex, Renewcell, Saraz Fibre Tech, Usha Yarns Limited and Worn Again Technologies among recyclers.

Textile waste

Textile waste

The initiative is led by Global Fashion Agenda, with partners such as Reverse Resources, The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and P4G. It aims to build a new business model for adopting more circular processes, facilitate a decrease in accumulating textile waste and increase the use of recycled fibers, while distributing value throughout the fashion value cycle and generating economic benefits in Bangladesh by accelerating the fiber recycling market.

“Brands are making strong commitments and targets towards circularity however, there are not many scalable options for circulating and handling waste. In this project we turn our attention to practical solutions that many best recycling technologies face when sourcing textile waste and use traceability as a tool to help them lower costs and increase the quality of the waste they source. Post-production waste is currently the low hanging fruit for supporting this emerging recycling industry to start closing the loop at scale, whilst we prepare for the even greater challenge of circulating post-consumer waste,” says Ann Runnel, CEO, Reverse Resources.

Ann Runnel, founder/CEO, Reverse Resources

Ann Runnel, founder/CEO, Reverse Resources

The initiative is focusing on Bangladesh as it possesses a high amount of recyclable textile and garment waste, despite the fact that the majority of its waste is currently being exported and downcycled. Therefore, according to the organizers of the initiative, Bangladesh could potentially become a leader in circularity by scaling its recycling capacity and generating more value from its waste streams.

The findings from the project and a consequent business model will be presented at the end of 2021 in a “Circularity Playbook for Bangladesh,” which will be used as a guide to replicate the partnership in other countries, such as, for instance, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Apparel industry insiders in Bangladesh we spoke to are in favor of the new initiative.
“I think it is a great idea,” said Munir Ahmed, owner of M&J Group. “Now recycling and reusing are considered as milestones of the sustainability of the fashion industry. Currently, some textile waste is already being recycled though this is not happening in a very organized way. For example, they produce pillows and blankets by recycling garment cutting leftovers. I think that such operations could be carried ahead in a more systematic way by producing new fibers from leftovers to be woven into fabrics. This could be a very good business as this kind of fabrics are in high demand now, and this will help our garment industry, and eventually our national economy, too.”

Munir Ahmed, owner, M&J Group

Munir Ahmed, owner, M&J Group

Mostafiz Uddin, managing director of Denim Expert Ltd., also approves of the initiative but recognizes other advantages. “Circular Fashion Partnership is indeed a move in the right direction in favor of the Bangladesh apparel industry. Although we often hear that in order to be sustainable we should all consume less, though, on the other hand, that also could cause an increase in jobs cuts. Circularity, instead, could ensure a balance between sustainability and a stable number of jobs. Moreover, circular economy is important for apparel manufacturing hubs like Bangladesh as our industry is very much labor-intensive. This new initiative is very timely for our apparel industry as it’s the very first one which could help transform Bangladesh apparel industry from a linear model business into a circular model one.”

Mostafiz Uddin, managing director, Denim Expert Ltd

Photo: Bangladesh Denim Expo

Mostafiz Uddin, managing director, Denim Expert Ltd

The idea to help establish a virtuous circle within a highly productive country as Bangladesh seems guided by good intentions, though, general high-number productive models could be rethought and redesigned according to a mix of models that could also include made-to-order productive systems. Such new models could help reduce the use of vast quantities of resources and raw materials and cut the amount of potential unsold items before they are produced.

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