Businesspeople and the government believe the size of the country's informal recycling is huge and giving it the status of an industry will further facilitate the development of a circular economy.
"A recycle chain has been developed in the steel industry in an informal way through the scrap business across the country without any research and policy support," said Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun on Sunday.
"So it is possible to build a circular economy in the country with lessons learned from here," he told a seminar titled "Current Scenario of Circular Economy in Bangladesh: Problem and Prospects".
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) organised the seminar at the FBCCI Bhaban Auditorium in Motijheel in the capital.
FBCCI President Jashim Uddin said no one in the world now considers waste unnecessary and the European Union is at the forefront in implementing the circular economy.
"China, Brazil, Canada, the United States and Japan are also working to shift their economies to a circular economy. Buyers in these countries are also focusing on recycled waste for new purchases," he added.
Jashim Uddin said, "One of my companies sells 8 lakh hangers a month to H&M. But the fashion company said in a new purchase order that each hangar should have at least 80% recyclable waste plastic. So there is no alternative to implementing the circular economy model to increase our exports."
According to a presentation at the seminar, a circular economic model essentially strengthens a linear economy approach by introducing a new line of thought whereby raw materials are turned into a product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its life cycle instead of simply being discarded.
The primary goal of moving into a circular economic model is to eliminate waste, it added.
The presentation mentioned unplanned consumption of natural resources is increasing worldwide along with economic development which results in climate change and global warming.
Therefore, conservation of climate and biodiversity, prevention of waste and environmental pollution have become major challenges for the next generation, it added.
It said in such a situation, the circular economic model combines production and consumption and the best use of resources can be ensured through waste management and recycling, which reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
Nurul Kabir, executive director at Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "We are working with Brac and Pran to use 100% recycled plastic in the packaging of food and beverage products. Also, Unilever, Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have started using recycled plastic bottles."
The FBCCI president said the Indian government has already started implementing the circular economy model in collaboration with private organisations. Pakistan is also following the model to comply with the global demand.
He said the waste has to be segregated first at their source but in Bangladesh, there is no dumping zone where waste can be segregated.
Abul Kashem, an executive engineer at the Dhaka North City Corporation, said, "We have not yet been able to manage waste in a scientific way. Although we took some initiatives, they have failed."
Speaking as a special guest, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin, said, "We cannot work on plastic waste management properly due to a lack of budget."
Regarding the waste mismanagement, the industries minister said, "We have not been able to motivate the public to properly conserve waste. We will ask departments concerned to motivate the public with simpler slogans considering its business prospects."
Nurul Majid said they will set up a separate cell at the ministry which will work closely with government and private organisations in developing the circular economy.