The mills in Bangladesh are starved of textile waste as their exports are increasing rapidly because of lower prices of cotton waste in the domestic market. The spinners, however, complain that they offer lower prices because of VAT on garbage.
The consumption of recycled apparel items has grown in Western markets, prompting local traders to ship the expensive raw materials directly to other countries, particularly India, China, and Turkey.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau, cotton waste export rose 72.15 percent year-on-year to $264.05 million in July-December of the current financial year. Cotton waste export stood at $411.12 million in the entire fiscal year of 2022-23.
Recently, Swedish retail giant H&M asked garment suppliers to use more cotton waste than raw cotton in manufacturing. Clothing retailers and brands prefer to reuse and recycle garments to avoid environmental damage.
A new proposed European Union law has already impacted the consumption of garments made from cotton waste. The 27-country bloc has decided not to buy garments from factories that don’t use cotton waste from 2030 as part of their circular fashion move.
Bangladesh generates around 4 lakh tonnes of cotton waste a year. If recycled, it could be used to manufacture exportable garments worth $6 billion. However, most items are being shipped abroad, although local garment exporters are very much against it.
Because of higher demand abroad, traders don’t have to sort them properly before shipping, revealing local spinners. They said the gap between the export price and the local market rate is also a factor in the shipment of cotton waste.
Among the garment wastes, cotton waste is more expensive, and millers usually don’t export it. Instead, they use them to make denim fabrics and denim garment items; on the other hand, knitwear waste is exported since the item is not recycled at a large scale.
Nearly 30 local mills produce recycled yarns and are demanding the removal of the VAT and other taxes on the sales of recycled yarn in the domestic market.
Each year, more than 10,000 crore items of clothing are produced globally, according to some estimates, with 65 percent of these ending up in landfill within 12 months. Landfill sites release equal parts carbon dioxide and methane – the latter greenhouse gas being 28 times more potent than the former over 100 years, according to a BBC article in February last year.
According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is estimated to be responsible for 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions. Just 1 percent of recycled clothes are turned back into new garments.
Cotton waste refers to the cotton and textile waste generated in spinning, weaving, and textile mills, coming in fibers, threads, or fabric pieces, depending on the manufacturing stage.