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The story of waste fabric (Jhoot): Positioning Bangladesh

Reverse Resources (RR), an Estonia-based software company in one of their studies quoted “Garment waste management exemplifies the idea of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. If tapped correctly, it has the potential of bringing in US$4 billion annually for Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh-garment-waste-opportunity
Figure 1: Garment waste management exemplifies the idea of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. If tapped correctly, it has the potential of bringing in US$4 billion annually for Bangladesh. Courtesy: planetaid.org

They were discussing the potential of Jhoot export since the idea to turn the scraps into materials is getting momentum in today’s fashion world. The idea is, immediately after a garment factory finishes production of one cycle of orders from a buyer, it gets rid of the waste (i.e. Jhoot) in the interest of production efficiency, moving onto the next cycle leaving a business potential of it if demand is created.

The RR further elucidated in their study that more than 25% of materials are discarded in fabric and garment factories, which can go up to 47% in some cases. In a practical situation, the major part of fabric waste come out from the process of the cutting of fabric following certain design and pattern of the market and some of the waste.

The study further sheds light on the average production ecosystem of a factory creating room for cutting waste while producing several products. Say for instance, while a factory bought 272.4 m2 of textile to produce the 100 t-shirts, and 44.57 m2 of that material ended up as cutting waste.

Moreover, about 6.37 percent of waste was leftover from sewing (14.71 m2 from the 227.83 m2 of cut fabric sent to sewing) and 0.09 percent from quality control. However, these calculations also depend on the product type (e.g. t-shirt, jacket), size of the given product (e.g. XL, S) and efficiency of cutting master and workers. Given the facts, it is understandable that the quantity of leftovers per annum is immense.

According to an estimated optimistic scenario by the study, they revealed that the world would create approximately 40 billion square meters of leftover textiles per year, almost enough to cover the entire Republic of Estonia (i.e. RR originated from Estonia) with waste. Additionally, they put forward a mean prediction and found that the leftovers would amount to 80 billion square meters.

Coming to Bangladesh, the Jhoot export has been increasing by around 15% to 20% a year for the last five years. There is no official data available about garment manufacturing by-products. According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, the country exported Jhoot or RMG waste worth US$64.95 million in fiscal year (FY) 2018-19, US$56.68 million in FY 2017-18, US$52.81 million in FY 2016-17 and US$44.20 million in FY 2015-16. In the past five months of the previous fiscal, around US$33 million worth of Jhoot were shipped abroad. The figure would likely reach around US$70 million at the end of FY ’20, according to EPB.

Provided Bangladesh being the second biggest garment exporter globally, it is obvious that its garment industry produces a large quantity of waste fabric (Jhoot) which is being used by the local recycled yarn manufacturers use to produce raw material for those into making and exporting towels, curtains and the likes.

Bangladesh-garment-fabric-waste-opportunity

According to the Bangladesh Garment and Textile Waste Exporters Association (BGTWEA), the market size of RMG by-products is around Tk 20 billion. Furthermore, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) sources said some 4,000 active RMG units are producing over 351,000 tons of by-products.

In the context of Bangladesh, Jhoot or waste are available from two sources, (1) colored cotton waste (HS Code 5202.99.00) and (2) white sorted waste (HS Code 6310.10.00). There are two categories of Jhoot, one comes from woven fabrics and another from knit fabrics. The price of ‘Woven Jhoot’ is low, but the price of ‘Knit Jhoot’ is comparatively high.

They are sold as an alternative to cotton yarn in the local market. The advantage is that cotton prices are high, but Jhoot is cheaper. Reportedly, Bangladesh Textile & Garments Waste Processors & Exporters Association (BTGWPEA) claimed to have exporting 90% of total waste and white sorted waste (HS Code 6310.10.00) of 10% is raw materials in making yarn.

Presently, a typical Bangladeshi factory produces around 250 -300 kg of waste fabric per day. Reportedly, the price of waste cloth depends on quality and size, starting from Tk10 and going up to Tk300 per kilogram of Jhoot. Large scraps of fabrics are sold to local traders to make garments for children.

Most of these children’s clothes are sold in Bangladesh, but some are exported to India. Moreover, Dhaka’s bedding industry is dependent on jhoot. Furthermore, products like mattresses, pillows, cushions, seat stuffing and padding in cars, public buses and rickshaws use recycled cloth and processed cotton.

The positive thing is any piece of cloth we can recycle. There is a huge demand for wastes of T-shirts. In this connection, various clusters have been established around the country. To name a significant cluster, Pabna must be mentioned.

There, hundreds of small entrepreneurs in many villages have created jobs for 25,000 to 30,000 people and annually produce 18 crores to 20 crores pieces of garments, mostly T-shirts, worth around Tk 1,200 crore to Tk 1,500 crore. There are more than 1,000 small and big garment factories in several villages in the district.

cutting-waste-recycled-yarn-at-Filotex
Figure 2: Filotex Ltd., a Bangladeshi model garment factory is producing luxurious recycled products to be used for home furnishing and upholstery since 2014 using sophisticated recycling technology from valuable ‘cutting waste’ of garments industry.

Bottlenecks, possibilities and way forwards

  • Earlier, there was a big local market for recycled yarns as factories producing gamcha (towel), lungi, quilt and curtains used to rely on the recycled material, but they are now turning to imported yarns. However, an increasing trend of such wastes being exported has left such recycled yarn producers high and dry forcing many home furnishing and those manufacturing towels, quilts, etc., depend on imported yarns for their raw material requirements.
  • According to industry-insiders, when they first started recycled yarn production in 2003, there was no modern technology. But, considering the local textile sector has been feeling the heat of Chinese and Indian yarn, they are now trying to diversify their business. In this circumstance, they now feel the need for modernized factories to produce recycled yarns from RMG jhoot which is mostly subject to have timely support from the government.
  • Small hosiery traders do not get soft loans or cash credit loans. Therefore, they are compelled to borrow money from other sources at high-interest rates.
  • Jhoot business is controlled by politically-backed local leaders and gangsters, which has led to unrest and even murder over the control of the business. It is worth mentioning that the business of reusing wasted cloth is a three-step process. First, a person, usually a locally influential person, collects the cloth forcibly or via negotiations, then it is sold to the reuse or recycling business and then the final product is sold to different consumers and exported. After collection, the process of recycling starts with sorting, which is done by the color, type and size of the fabric. Larger scraps of cloth are used to make children’s frocks, skirts, shirts, pajamas and sometimes pillow covers.
  • Some sector leaders urged the government to ban the export of RMG by-products and to take steps to offer financial support to set up recycling factories. The government may look into this issue consulting both the backward and forward linkage players.
  • Giving formal shape to the informal sector would reduce criminality in the jhoot trade, reduce operational risks and draw in much-needed investment.
  • Using waste from one cycle of production in the next through re-manufacturing involves practical challenges but recycling it surely has a business potential within the country’s garment sector. In this connection, ensuring the efficiency of the garment sector can save a huge amount of foreign currency form import of fabric or yarn or cotton and value addition of garment could be higher.
  • Many hi-tech factories have been set-up in India and China to re-process garment ‘Jhoot’. These factory owners import their raw-materials mainly from Bangladesh. So, this is an opportune area where Bangladesh can explore the potential of processed Jhoot.
  • At present about very few spinning mills are in production and there are enough jhoot to feed more few dozen mills. So, it is of critical essence that Bangladesh should focus on setting up more spinning mills for ensuring optimum use of the entire jhoot for the re-production of yarns.
  • Waste to energy is an emerging area to explore in the context of the industrial environmental management system. The good news is, our few readymade garments (RMG) factories have started using cutting wastes, popularly known as jhoot, to run boilers amid short supply of natural gas – presently the main energy source for the boilers. Astonishingly, the efficiency level of the less dust dischargeable and smoke-free jhoot fired boilers is more than 80%.

In conclusion, there is nothing called waste that existed in this competitive world. And, considering Bangladesh’s home-grown potential in the textile and garment sector, expediting the potential of waste fabric is a timely demand.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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