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‘Smart Myanmar’to bring sustainable consumption and production in garments factory

Smart Myanmar, a four-year project (2016-2019) funded by the European Union (EU), has advised garment factories in Myanmar to reduce consumption of fuel. Smart Myanmar actively supports and promotes sustainable consumption and production (SCP) of garments “Made in Myanmar” – a concept with an emphasis on resource efficiency and social responsibility.

The second phase of the four-year Smart Myanmar project launched on 19 January 2016
Figure: The second phase of the four-year Smart Myanmar project launched on 19 January 2016, which is actively supporting and promoting sustainable consumption and production. Photo: Collected

Following on the successful implementation of activities during the first 3 years, Smart Myanmar has launched a new 4-year project phase which will expand and accelerate some of the previous activities – such as assistance to factories on social compliance and human resources management – as well as introducing entirely new activities related to promoting sustainable production and transparency in procurement practices in Myanmar.

According to the project, it is necessary to invest in steam condensate recovery, a system that actually saves the company money in the medium term; however, companies are hesitant about initial investment.

It is also practical and necessary to make certain the steam system is effectively designed and does not suffer from any broken steam traps or separators. Among ten newly built factories surveyed in 2017, a majority had mistaken in the design and set-up of their steam systems, most resulting in a substantial waste of steam.

Smart Myanmar has also recommended factories to consider options for the solar thermal assist. The thermal gain in a tropical climate saves energy by reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat the water.

The third recommendation is to consider various biomass options. The EU-funded project’s fourth recommendation for boiler fuel and emissions is to consider fabric scrap boilers. Special care should be exercised to make sure plastics are not being burned, but generally, some boiler technology is specifically designed to safely burn fabric scraps.

The project has also recommended multiple ways to address over-extraction and pollution of water. It said factories should outline water reduction priorities in the company’s environmental management policy.

Factories must meter their water usage and, hence, measure it. Meters should be used to determine overall usage, but also for water-intensive processes, such as with washing and dyeing machines. Based on such measurements, key performance indicators can be set and improvements can be targeted over time via new processes and technologies.

For wastewater treatment, the project said, “All process wastewater must be effectively treated to safe levels. This can be done via biological or chemical processes, but a suitable treatment system must be in place.

Although regulatory enforcement in this area was inadequate in years past, the Myanmar government is beginning a stricter enforcement process and factories violating Myanmar’s emissions guidelines and requirements for effluent treatment are likely to face large fines and possible forced shutdown.”

“Even with an effective treatment system, factories ought to have a contingency plan in place in case the system temporarily breaks. This can be via an auxiliary treatment system, a holding tank, production stoppage or other means. Hazardous liquid waste, such as pad printing waste, must be given over to a third party disposal company. A reasonable plan should also be in place for ETP sludge management,” said Smart Myanmar.

The project has also instructed companies to store hazardous waste in a locked area and dispose of it via a qualified service provider. It even suggests using automated cutting machines to improve cutting efficiency and reduce cut fabric wastage.

Exploring and adopting many of the above recommendations benefits the local environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately also benefits factories by reducing costs and often helps additionally by boosting their Higg Index scores.

Roland Kobia, Ambassador of the European Union to Myanmar said that “Garment has quickly emerged as the star sector in Myanmar’s economy. The growth numbers of the sector are impressive, not least thanks to the trade preferences granted by the EU.

Exporting to Europe creates an incentive for Myanmar companies and authorities to step up their quality and management. This is a huge opportunity for economic development provided that the benefits are shared among all and that the environment can be preserved.”

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