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Nordic delegation promises assistance for Bangladesh

Country needs to quickly respond to the latest policy developments in the EU’s textile sector, but faces many obstacles.

30th March 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Bangladesh

Clothing/​Footwear, Sustainable

A recent research project underlines the huge opportunity that exists in recycling pre-consumer garment waste in Bangladesh, as the world’s second largest garment producer.

The research, led by Global Fashion Agenda with partners Reverse Resources and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), found that in 2019, Bangladesh produced approximately 577,000 tons of waste from ready-made garments (RMG) and fabrics mills, of which almost 250,000 tons was 100% pure cotton waste.

Known as ‘jooth’ in Bangladesh, the waste is traditionally burned, discarded, exported or down-cycled into low quality fabrics, insulation and padding materials.

It is estimated that factories in Bangladesh could actually sell this 100% cotton waste to the recycling market for up to $100 million, but recycling the waste could be even more significant to the domestic industry.

Bangladesh is currently heavily reliant on the import of textile fibres and in 2019, the country imported 1.63 million tons of staple cotton fibre with a value estimated to be $3.5 billion. If just the 100% cotton waste was recycled within Bangladesh, imports could decrease by around 15%, saving $500 million currently spent on cotton imports.


Leading the field in such recycling in Bangladesh is Simco Spinning and Textiles which is now supplying major international brands with its Cyclo recycled cotton yarns and has processes in place for collecting waste from manufacturers, recycling it, spinning it into new yarns and delivering them back to the manufacturer. Cyclo fibres are mechanically recycled in a process that does not use any water, dyes or chemicals. The company is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and is working with the HIGG index.

Simco is, however, the exception to the rule and the Global Fashion Agenda report notes that investment in updated technology with government support is required to increase the spread of recycling. In Bangladesh there is no systematic waste management system by which pre-consumer cotton waste could be collected and rival businesses have in the past moved to take control of the garment waste produced by various RMG industries.

Price was also found to be a major stumbling block, with brands currently not ready to assist or pay additional prices towards the cost of recycling and recycled yarns remaining typically more expensive than virgin cotton yarns.

Nordic delegation

This may be about to change, according to a report in Bangladesh publication Textile Focus.

On March 14th, the Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) in Bangladesh organised an event entitled Promoting Circularity for a Sustainable Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh, co-hosted with the Nordic Embassies in Dhaka of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and a delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh.

“Climate action and sustainability are an overarching priority for the Nordic countries and the European RMG brands,” said NCCI president Tahrin Aman at the event. “As such, sustainability of the environment, production processes and even auxiliary support services related to the textile sector are being re-evaluated in line with the global agendas of the brands.”

“Environmental sustainability has long been a clear overarching priority for the Nordic countries for a long time and it will continue to be key in our relations with Bangladesh going forward,” added Swedish ambassador, Alexandra Berg von Linde. “We have a lot of experience in cultivating economic growth in an environmentally friendly manner, by applying solutions that are resource efficient and by re-using, reducing and re-cycling. Naturally, we have learnt some lessons and we want to share these by partnering up with Bangladesh to promote a sustainable and more circular future.”

She added that Sweden is now exploring how a Credit Guarantee could increase the appetite for green investments and lower the perceived risks.

EU ambassador Charles Whiteley stressed the impact of upcoming policy developments regarding circularity and textile strategy in the EU which will affect Bangladesh. He also underscored the importance for proactively addressing issues arising in the RMG value chain soon.

 “As Europe moves to close the loop by transitioning to a complete circular economy, Bangladesh must quickly respond to these latest policy developments in the textile sector of the European market to keep the economy running at its current pace,” he said.

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