Unlocking Bangladesh’s circular apparel industry – collaborative strategies and innovation at the forefront

Find out more about the Switch to Upstream Circularity Dialogue: Pre-consumer Textile Waste in Bangladesh event at the Amari Hotel in Dhaka on 3 September

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Bangladesh, the world’s second largest readymade garment exporter, is poised to embark on a transformative journey towards circularity in its industrial practices. Circularity presents a significant opportunity for Bangladesh to reduce its environmental impact, improve its economic performance, and create social benefits. However, embracing circularity also poses particular challenges for Bangladesh’s apparel industry that must be collectively considered and resolved.

To address this, an esteemed panel of industry leaders, policymakers, and experts in circular economies convened for the ‘Switch to Upstream Circularity Dialogue: Pre-consumer Textile Waste in Bangladesh’ event at the Amari Hotel in Dhaka on 3 September. The dialogue covered the strategies, policies, infrastructure, collaborations, and innovations necessary to build a thriving circular ecosystem in Bangladesh.

This event was organised under the Switch to Circular Economy Value Chains project (SWITCH2CE), co-funded by the European Union and the Government of Finland. SWITCH2CE is led by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in collaboration with Chatham House, Circle Economy, and European Investment Bank, and supports the switch to circularity in selected global value chains. As part of the SWITCH2CE programme, BESTSELLER with the support of Global Fashion Agenda, BGMEA, and Reverse Resources, is the lead applicant on the BESTSELLER – Switch to Upstream Circularity Pilot

A diverse group of stakeholders attended the event, including brands, manufacturers, policymakers, waste management companies, development organisations, and financial institutions. Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bangladesh, and the Special Envoy to the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina For Climate Change, was present in the opening session as chief guest. Global Fashion Agenda’s Director of Impact Programmes & Sustainability, Holly Syrett, also contributed to the event’s opening session.

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The two panel discussions that took place centred on critical topics such as the business model and incentives for various manufacturers in Bangladesh to proactively participate in circular ecosystems, the criteria for textile waste management processes to capture value in the country, and how to ensure the inclusion of, and collaboration with, current traders.

During the event, Holly Syrett presented a comprehensive business case aimed at motivating apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh to adopt sustainable waste management practices. The presentation highlighted the sustainable and economic benefits of trading and tracing waste to recycling. This business case emerged from a collaborative effort involving Global Fashion Agenda, BESTSELLER, and BGMEA, with valuable contributions from the Circular Fashion Partnership project partners, including renowned brands such as H&M, C&A, Primark, and Benetton. The presentation was met with enthusiastic reception from key stakeholders within the industry, positioning it as a pivotal tool for disseminating crucial knowledge throughout the Bangladesh garment and apparel sector.

BGMEA highlighted the progress Bangladesh has made in the shift towards a circular economy, emphasising that there are now 23 recycling mills and 61 yarn manufacturing mills in Bangladesh that have received certifications for using recycled materials. Dr. Bernd Spanier, Deputy Head of Mission at the European Union, commended Bangladesh for being a leader in creating more environmentally friendly factories. He also expressed his belief that Bangladesh can become a world leader in the circular economy due to its expertise and mindset.

Policy was referenced throughout the event with key messages reiterating the need to develop a National Circular Economy Policy, a legal or voluntary waste management framework, review tax policies to facilitate circularity, explore unique HS Codes for green machines with the National Board of Revenue (NBR), and create a conducive investment climate for circular economy initiatives.

On 4 September, BGMEA also hosted select partners in a closed-door roundtable discussion in the BGMEA Complex in Uttara, Dhaka. Global Fashion Agenda led a roundtable for organisers of circular textiles initiatives. During this session, participants shared mutual objectives and activities in a bid to work together more effectively, to share knowledge and resources, to start establishing a common vision and voice for circular textiles in Bangladesh, and ultimately accelerate all efforts that will support in anchoring Bangladesh’s RMG industry into a circular manufacturing hub.

Federica Marchionni Chief Executive Officer
"The transformation to a circular economy requires collective efforts beyond the capabilities of any individual agent or company. Therefore, we are honoured to be coordinating this multistakeholder partnership between a group of esteemed organisations. True circularity can only be realised through proactive measures in manufacturing regions, and the resounding message from this event is that Bangladesh is poised to be the global leader in recycled materials, provided it effectively harnesses the potential of post-industrial waste. With increasing momentum in brand demand and legislations materialising globally, I am confident that Bangladesh can create an ecosystem to expedite this opportunity."

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