Bangladesh's cotton imports may decrease by around 15% if it recycles cotton waste, enabling it to save half a billion dollars that would have been spent on such imports, research has revealed.
The Circular Fashion Partnership's research has found that Bangladesh's readymade garment and fabrics mills produced around 577,000 tonnes of waste in 2019 and almost half – 250,000 tonnes – of that was cotton waste.
It is estimated that factories can sell this waste to the recycling market for up to $100 million.
The Circular Fashion Partnership is a cross-sectorial project led by Global Fashion Agenda. Reverse Resources and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) are partners of the project, which is supported by P4G and aims to achieve a long-term, scalable transition to a circular fashion system.
Bangladesh at present is heavily reliant on textile fibre imports. In 2019, it imported 1.63 million tonnes of staple cotton fibre estimated to be $3.5 billion.
The research findings were revealed at an online event hosted by the Circular Fashion Partnership, prominent policymakers, and fashion industry executives.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told the event the sustenance of the planet is now at risk.
"We cannot stay indifferent. We have to shift the linear economic model to the circular one. This is the future and we are committed to closing the loop while achieving our strategic growth targets," he said.
Federica Marchionni, chief executive officer at Global Fashion Agenda, said, "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," she said.
These findings demonstrate that a circular fashion system could breed not only environmental but also financial benefits for a country, she said.
"It is wonderful to see so many esteemed parties joining us on our journey to circularity. I hope the business model being developed in Bangladesh will be replicated in other countries around the world."
Nin Castle, head of recycling and chief project officer at Reverse Resources, said Bangladesh produces arguably the most recyclable textile waste of any apparel producing country.
With the emergence of new and improved versions of the existing recycling technologies, Bangladesh has huge opportunities to scale its local recycling capacity and accordingly reduce its dependency on virgin raw materials, she said.
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, she added.
Since its launch in November last year, over 50 brands, manufacturers, recyclers, and non-governmental organisations have signed up to participate in the Circular Fashion Partnership.
Md Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, delivered the keynote at the event.
Among others, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Denmark M Allama Siddiki and Ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh Winnie Estrup Petersen spoke at the programme.