Denim recycling promising big business for Bangladesh: Report

BDApparelNews Desk
19 May 2019  

Photo Courtesy: Denim blog

Photo Courtesy: Denim blog

Denim recycling, a process that turns old scrap denims into new garments, can fetch USD 4 billion annually, reports The Independent.

Besim Ozek, strategy and business development director of Bossa, told The Independent that the main idea of such recycling was to turn scraps into materials that were in great demand in the fashion world.

The total volume of annual leftovers from the country’s garment units is approximately 400,000 tonnes. If these leftovers were recycled for making new yarns and used in re-manufacturing garments, it would be a business of more than USD 4 billion, he added.

He also said that 50 litres of water were needed to wash one pair of jeans. So, the recycling of these products would save that much water.

Ozek said this at the recently ended two-day ‘Fashionology Summit’, held at the International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB) in the capital.

The summit was organised by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE).

While talking to MS Hasan, director (operations) of Amber Group at the summit venue, he said recycled materials were made from post-industrial denim fabrics scraps. The energy spent in recycling old materials is lesser than that spent in converting raw materials into products, he added.   

Earlier, recycled materials could be extracted from pet bottles. But now old and used denims are creatively recycled into useful products, said Hasan.

Explaining the process, he said: “We collect old used jeans first and turn them into cotton by using sophisticated machinery. Finally, the fabric is made.”

“As much as 3.5 million yards of denim fabric is our production capacity every month,” he added.

Global consumption of denim fabric has increased with a significant rise in its uses, indicating a brighter future for Bangladesh, said the exhibitors.

“In 2005, we started our factory with a capacity of only 1.7 million yards of fabric per month which has increased to 3.5 million yards per month in year 2012. So, it shows that the capacity has definitely increased,” he said.

“However, we are now focusing on producing quality denim product rather than producing basic denim,” he opined.

In search of quality

When asked about the challenges facing the industry, he complained about the quality of raw material. “We collect 40 per cent of the raw materials locally and 60 per cent are being imported. Besides, we are unable to produce quality raw materials such as yarn and dice,”

Talking about local sourcing, he said, “Our local spinners in spinning mills mostly manufacture regular yarn; therefore, they don’t have the expertise to produce quality yarn.

“So, we need to focus on our Research and Development (R and D) and develop skilled human resources,” he added.

“We import all the chemicals that are used to manufacture denim products. They are initially used in the dyes. We could reduce the lead time and increase efficiency, if we could manufacture chemicals locally,” he informed.

The uses of denim fabrics increased manifold and many purposes have evolved like household usage, apart from their use traditional trousers, jackets and shirt-making.

Growing fast

There are some 30 denim mills in Bangladesh with a capacity to produce approximately 150 million yards of fabric a month. Six new denim factories have been established in last three years, said Hasan.

Talking to The Independent, Sayeed Ahmad Chowdhury, general manager (operations) of Square Denims Limited said, “Business is definitely growing. In 2015, we started our production line with a capacity of 1.5 million yards of fabric per month and now Square Denims is producing around 3 million yards of quality fabrics per month, which turns out approximately 16,00,000 pieces of finished garments.”

He pointed out that product prices had increased in China, prompting buyers to look for other sourcing hubs, and Bangladesh could be one of them.

Sayeed Ahmad Chowdhury also said, “Bangladesh is receiving a lot of work orders amid the ongoing trade war between China and the US. Keeping to a shorter lead time is a challenge for us.”

Talking about recycled denim, he said, “We produced denim fabrics from post-industrial (recycled cotton fibres obtained from denim wastes) and post-consumer wastes (produced from recycled PET bottles).

Changing fashion

When asked about premium-quality denim products, he said that the highest standard in all production processes of sophisticated denim fabrics required additional complex processes in finishing for a truly authentic denim look.

“Now, the lead time has diminished to 40–45 days. The buyers want the products within the shortest possible time because of fast fashion. New products are coming in the market very fast and we have to cope with the changing fashion trends,” he added.

“Our creative finishing process is a must in denim production. Therefore, Square Denims’ finishing department is equipped with high-tech finishing machinery such as roller mercerization and the double-blade foam-coating machines,” he informed.

Investment in this sector is huge. It takes an investment of Tk 500 crore to establish a factory having a capacity of 3 million yards of fabric per month, informed Chowdhury.    

Mohiuddin Rubel, the director of Denim Expert Ltd and managing director of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE), told The Independent that the expo had helped create a platform for denim stakeholders, buyers, sellers, and accessory makers.

Asked whether Bangladesh was capable of producing high-value products, he said, “In Bangladesh, the denim garment manufacturing business is growing fast as investors are setting up facilities with sophisticated technologies to produce high-end products."

“Currently, we are producing high range products which cost between USD10 and USD14. Our production capacity is presently 3.5 lakh pieces of jeans per month. We expect to produce 4 lakh pieces from next year. There is a huge demand from local fabric producers and foreigners as well.”

Currently, Bangladesh is the largest supplier of denim to Europe, holding a 27 per cent of the market share and surpassing China, said Rubel.

Mohiuddin Ahmed, director of Pioneer Denim, said: “We produce 3.6 million yards of denim fabric per month.”

Using wastes from one cycle of production to the next through remanufacturing involves practical challenges. But recycling has immense business potential in the country's garments sector, he added.

‘Smart clothing’ was another session held at the ‘Fashionology Summit’.

It is the fourth industrial textile revolution, a sector that will reach a sales volume of more than USD 130 billion in 2025, said Mostafiz Uddin, founder of the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE).

“The recent increase in wages and the cost of production have made it inevitable for apparel manufacturers of the country to concentrate on value-added products. The smart clothing market is an area we need to focus on to survive and thrive,” he added.

“The shift from producing basic to smart clothing will not be so easy. It has to be done gradually with proper planning and preparation. The objective of the Bangladesh Fashionololgy Summit is to facilitate the shift,” he observed.

The theme of the 2nd edition of the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit is ‘Digitisation—the Next Destination’. The event was aligned with the government’s goal of ‘Digital Bangladesh Vision’.

Talking about innovation, Mostafiz Uddin said: “Our mission is to facilitate modern, innovative, technology-driven apparel manufacturing and supply chain conversations. We also aim to build a thriving community of leaders and innovators who will help guide our nation in transforming itself into a ‘next-generation’ apparel manufacturing and marketing hub by using the latest digital technology.”

A total of 41 speakers from 15 countries spoke at the sessions of the summit.