Residents in a Bogura village have developed a way of using the leftover fabric and yarn, which normally either end up in landfill or are incinerated, as raw material for yarn to make blankets and winter clothes.
The local traders transact over Tk1,278 crore in the Shaol market, where they buy garment wastes and sell yarn and winter clothes made from it.
The locals said they have been involved in the weaving industry since the British era. At that time the weavers used to import yarn from India, but that stopped in the 1970s.
The local weaving industry faced a crisis for a while, but then they found another source of raw material for their yarn in the garment factories. Weavers in Bogura, Naogaon and Gaibandha started making wool yarn from the leftover fabric and wool in the 1980s. The industry there is now moving forward with a combination of the old traditional method and modern innovative techniques.
They started using wool yarn made from the wastes of sweater factories for making shawls, mufflers, and blankets. At one point they established the Shaol Bazaar in Adamdighi to sell these winter clothes at retail and wholesale. Buying and selling blankets and winter clothing in this market goes from 4am to 8am every day.
According to the traders, the Shaol market has more than 1,300 shops. Apart from this, innumerable shops (locally known as mokam) have been set up in Dupchanchia, Kahalu, and Shibganj upazilas of Bogura, Raninagar of Naogaon, and Khetlal of Joypurhat.
Md Mahfuzur Rahman has been trading yarn in this market for 12 years. At least 15 big trucks of waste fabric and yarn come here from Dhaka every day. The average price of a truck of waste fabric and yarn is Tk12 lakh on an average, so waste fabric and yarn worth Tk1.8 crore is brought to this market every day. This means the amount of garment wastes sold per year at this market is worth around Tk648 crore.
At the same time, five to seven trucks full of good quality yarn made from the garment waste are sold at this market every day. Each truck of yarn costs around Tk20-25 lakh and the traders here earn around Tk630 crore per year on an average by selling them.
Ayub Ali, a businessman who came to buy winter clothes from Faridpur, said, "This is one of the major markets for blankets and sheets in the country. Here we buy products at low prices and sell them in our own areas. The quality of the blankets and sheets made here is very good."
Ayub, as well as local traders, said the wholesale price of sheets and blankets is higher this year compared to other years.
Delowar Hossain, a weaver and trader, said the price of garments wastes has doubled this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has driven up the price of yarn too, so the weavers are forced to increase the prices of their products.
Price of blankets sold at Shaol Bazar ranges from Tk200 to Tk400, and good quality shawls are available at Tk200 to Tk600. At least 8,000 blankets are made in the area every day.
Wahed Ali, a retired government employee who owns Mou Enterprise in Shaol Bazar, has set up a network of 200 women workers who make yarn and blankets. These women work in their own homes.
Wahed said the industry of making yarn and blankets from garment waste has appeared as a blessing for this area, because it has provided employment to hundreds of helpless women.
Masuma Begum, a weaver in Shaol Bazar area, said she has educated her three sons by making blankets at home with her husband Maqbool Hossain.
"I used to make blankets at my father's house and continued doing it when I came to my husband's house. Two of my sons have completed study and the third one is at high school. We do not have any agricultural land. Our livelihood depends on weaving," said the 50-year-old woman.
Masuma's daughter-in-law Habiba Khatun (33) also makes blankets at home with her husband Matiur Rahman. She said, "By working together, we have improved our condition. We make blankets by bringing yarn from the large blanket manufacturers. Our family survives on this income."
Visiting the Shaol village, one would see that men and women in every house are busy making yarn, shawls and blankets. Often the children in the house also assist in these activities.
Apart from this, each shop in Shaol market employs three women on average. Their wages are lower compared to those of men, but still they work happily.
The local yarn traders have formed the Union Tantubaye Cooperative Society in Shaol market.
Abu Bakkar Sheikh, vice-president of the society, said, "Crores of taka are transacted in our market every day during the winter, but still there are no branches of any government bank in this market. We need it."
He also urged the authorities to set up a shed in the market to protect the traders from the rain.
Bogura Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ziaul Haque said, "The Shaol market is very important from an economic point of view. With this in mind, we will work for the development of traders and the weaving industry.