Local plastic giant Pran-RFL Group wants to import, process and reuse plastic clothes hangers discarded by western retailers, such as Walmart, Carrefour and H&M.
The conglomerate's hanger-making and exporting venture Banga Plastic International Ltd will take back the intact hangers for making them usable again, according to Pran-RFL officials.
More than a dozen western retailers have contacted Pran-RFL since they can neither dump nor recycle the hangers in the west, according to a letter sent by Pran-RFL Chairman Ahsan Khan Chowdhury to the commerce ministry seeking approval for the import.
"The foreign brands import clothes hangers from us, and they store those intact after selling the garments. We want to import the plastic item, process those and export it to the brands again," he wrote in the letter.
According to the conglomerate, it produces around 27,000 tonnes of raw materials from 30,000 tonnes of used plastic per year. Raw materials obtained from recycling amount to the tune of Tk400 crore. The recycled items include mugs, buckets, bottles and chairs.
Noting Pran-RFL's increasing focus on reuse and recycling, Ahsan Khan Chowdhury assured the commerce ministry that the firm's operations to make the hangers reusable would not have any adverse effect on the environment.
Banga Plastic exports 5 crore pieces of clothes hangers to foreign markets annually. The company exports 10 lakh pieces directly while the remaining hangers go to foreign retailers with readymade garments.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director at Pran-RFL Group, told The Business Standard that apparel-maker sends their fabrics abroad with hangers. The retailers prefer garments on hangers as it is easier to present products to customers.
"But when a customer buys a fabric, he or she takes the item in a shopping bag – mostly leaving the hanger in the superstores. We will take back those from the brands and supply them to the local apparel factories for reuse," he elaborated.
While replying to the query whether the production of Banga Plastic would reduce if old hangers are imported instead of making new ones, Kamruzzaman Kamal said, "The production naturally will go down a bit. But it will reduce the damage to the environment."
He said Pran-RFL came up with the initiative as international buyers are interested in reusing instead of new ones.
He was questioned whether exporting hangers after processing the used ones will be profitable compared to exporting the item after manufacturing.
"Currently, only export oriented garments can import hangers as import for others is prohibited. If the government allows us, we will then estimate the profit margin," he added.
Pran-RFL Group manufactures plastic products, among which are household items, pipes and fittings, garment accessories and food packaging items weighing around 3 lakh tonnes per year.
Currently, there are nearly 4,000 plastic product manufacturers in Bangladesh as the country's annual plastic consumption amounts to 24 lakh tonnes. The per capita plastic consumption is nearly 15 kg, while the figure is around 60 kg in many developed countries.
According to Bangladesh's national action plan, which will be implemented with the assistance of the World Bank, the country has set a target of recycling 50% of plastics by 2025 as the rate now hovers around 36%.