Incredible success in the reuse of fashion waste

Original article: prothomalo.com

Recycled yarn made from garment waste
Recycled yarn made from garment waste

Cloth is one of the most important catalysts of human civilization. But in course of time it has boomeranged. The production of yarn, fabric and apparel has turned out to be a major threat for the humankind. For this global clothing industry, the essential component would be yarn, for which, various kinds of fibre are required, be it natural or artificial. As a result, the earth is getting depleted of its resources and harmed with every process of the global production and the ever increasing demand for more and more clothing around the world.

It is only obvious that this demand is skyrocketing due to the soaring population of the world. In addition, the consumerism and the trend of fast fashion are multiplying these global woes. Every process of producing yarn and fabric requires unlimited water, emits carbon-di-oxide, pours harmful chemicals into the land and river and the land is filling with increasing waste.

Recent statistics demonstrate that in present times this total fashion waste amounts to almost a massive 92 million tonnes per year. Forecasts say that this figure will be 134 million tonnes by the year 2030. Nonetheless, at this time of utmost environmental crisis, we, the people of this world, are buying new clothes more frequently than ever, which has increased as much as 60 per cent compared to what it was like 15 years ago. The worldwide sale of clothes per year at present is 56 million tonnes.

Again, the forecasts show a very grim picture in respect to this as the total clothing items bought and sold is expected to grow to 92 million tonnes in 2030 and 130 million tons in the year 2050. The fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of the total emissions of greenhouse gases. When estimated, this amounts to 1.2 billion tonnes. With this comes along the wastage of water, adverse effects on soil fertility, harmful and poisonous elements getting into the land and water bodies and so on. All these factors are destroying biodiversity, soil quality and the environment. This increasing level of unacceptable pollution is having a negative effect on the human livelihood too.

In order to overcome this situation, specialists are giving a good thought on reusing fashion waste as much as possible. Extensive research is getting carried out on different ways to manage and reuse huge amounts of waste. It is a matter of great regret that even in these adverse circumstances, only 12 per cent of the total global fashion waste gets recycled. Nonetheless, in recent times, there is hope as leading international brands are showing an inclination towards reuse of fashion waste. Many of these fashion giants have pledged to go for a certain percentage of the total production as recycled products. Apart from these, the timeline for a fully-fledged sustainable production has been set as 2025-2030.

Fashion waste has been reused in Bangladesh as well. Quite a few organisations have engaged themselves in this environment friendly process. One such venture in Bangladesh is Cyclo fiber, a recycled yarn brand of the Simco spinning and Textile Ltd. Cyclo fiber or Cyclo yarn is produced by reuse process. When Simco group took up this project in 2010, these perspectives were not given much consideration at the time. Many were skeptical and astonished too.

In conversation with the director of the organisation, Mustafain Munir, director of Simco and officers of different capacities at the Cyclo office, these aspects came in light, while Mustafain Munir reminisced about how it all began.

The beginning

Mustafain Munir said, ‘My father Khawaja Munir Mashooqullah took up this venture about a decade ago. He learned that a Spanish company was producing yarn from the T-shirt cut pieces. He was very motivated by this. It occurred to him that a huge number of T-shirts are produced in Bangladesh every year. So by means of reusing the cut pieces, it would be possible for us to mass produce good quality yarn. This is how it all began.”

Mustafain Munir, Director, Simco
Mustafain Munir, Director, Simco

He added that sustainable production was not too much in focus back then. Therefore this sector seemed very promising. He also had in mind the calculation of getting benefit of using unused raw materials.

After hearing it all from his father, Munir, who was brought up in the US, was inspired about the venture. He thoroughly studied about it and even got proper qualification on this subject. He had basically studied medical science and then finished with a music degree. But before joining Simco, Munir got a degree in supply chain management. Then he came back to Bangladesh and took the lead of this project.

Simco factory in Bhaluka, Mymensingh
Simco factory in Bhaluka, Mymensingh

Their activities

Their main brand is involved in making yarn. Cyclo Fiber is a brand of theirs. This yarn is produced using readymade garment waste and is termed as cotton blended yarn.

In order to produce this yarn, the waste material now they use are new cut pieces. That means, the cut pieces and bits or the unused garment waste (locally known as jhoot) are used to produce fresh yarn. But prior to the production, this jhoot is carefully sorted to high precision for ensuring quality. This recycled yarn is used sequentially for making fabric and garments afterwards. Many big brands in international fashion are buying this recycled yarn from them. Again, in order to play a part in this great venture, many other international companies provide them with discarded garments which are also recycled after removing all the accessories.

This yarn has achieved global recognition from various sources. Cyclo yarn is certified by Global Recycle Standard (GRS).

Advantages

The major advantage is that it does not require any externally added chemical or dyes for the production of yarn. This saves a huge volume of water. Carbon-di-oxide emissions are also minimised. The most adverse effect of the textile industry involves the huge amount of water and chemicals that are used in the whole production process. It is great a relief that the exact opposite is happening here in case of Cyclo fiber and this is contributing towards saving our environment from the hazards of the fashion waste.

Munir also said that merely 20 per cent of the jhoot produced in the country is recycled locally and the rest is exported to India and China.

He also regretted that it is quite difficult to collect jhoot because of the syndicates involved in the local market. But now that different big brands have a structured plan to use recycled Cyclo yarn, they are now instructing their concerned RMG production unit to supply their jhoot directly to Simco. This, what he calls a closed loop system, is ensuring a steady supply of raw material needed for producing Cyclo. Again, if the jhoot is collected from local sources directly, the steps involved middlemen increases the cost at least five to six folds and this affects the production cost of the yarn as a whole.

Type of yarns

Cyclo produces both knit and woven yarns. But there happens to be some colour discrepancies in the yarn from time to time. Then again, the difference is not too prominent.

The garments produced

Using this recycled yarn, T-shirts, polo shirts, sweaters, denim, shirts and even gloves, socks, comforters, home textile, bags are getting produced along with many other products. The yarn is customised according to the requirements of the end product. But it is quite surprising that given the global environmental crisis, textile goods present in global market involving recycled materials is only 5 per cent. One thing to take into account here is, the clothing items produced from recycled yarn cannot be further recycled but it is possible to down-cycle them to produce other things.

Yarn production
Yarn production

The process of recycling

The company produces yarn according to the requirements of the customers. For instance, the fashion waste is collected conforming to the colour of the yarn ordered and first they are examined and sorted very precisely. The final quality of the yarn depends greatly upon the precision of this process. After that, this jhoot is converted into cotton like fibre. This fiber is termed as dead fibre and it can be seen that it is not as strong as virgin fiber. So in order to strengthen it, different types of other fibers like polyester, acrylic, viscose, tensile or cotton are mixed according to the demand of the buyers. Again, if these additions would be recycled or virgin depends on the customer requirements.

This Cyclo fiber produces yarn from 6 single to 30 single. Here, depending on the strength of the recycled jhoot fiber, new yarn is produced by mixing in other fibers constituting 20 to 50 per cent of the total raw materials. The sale price of recycled yarn is at least 15 to 20 lower than fresh virgin cotton yarn.

H&M, Zara, Primark, Stanly/ Stella, Bestseller, Lidl, Otto group, Kiabi, Kohl’s, Preneur, Cielo, Mango, George, Walmart, Kick, Hema, Reiner, Adidas, Nike, Target, Patagonia, Inditex are among at least 40 international fashion brands that work with Cyclo directly

Positive impact

This production of recycled is having a great positive impact. To make every kilogram of yarn the following resources are getting saved:

1. 7.5 kg (96.3%) carbon-di-oxide

2. 2626 litre water (99.8%) water

3. 6.83 sq. metre ( 99.7%) land area

4. 7.1 kg ( 82.7%) hazardous poisonous waste

Even though the environment friendly venture of Cyclo began in 2011, they took the pledge in 2015 to contribute further in the conservation of environment. Mustafain Munir said that our very goal is to make this world livable. That is because, through this process, we are attempting to convert the products of local and international brands to sustainable ones and thus to bring about sustainability to the global fashion industry. He hopes that his whole idea and venture would have a positive impact all over the world. He also added that, Cyclo fiber has fulfilled 14 of the 17 sectors of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The brands associated

H&M, Zara, Primark, Stanly/ Stella, Bestseller, Lidl, Otto group, Kiabi, Kohl’s, Preneur, Cielo, Mango, George, Walmart, Kick, Hema, Reiner, Adidas, Nike, Target, Patagonia, Inditex are among at least 40 international fashion brands that are presently working with Cyclo directly. And this list is only getting longer. H&M is at the top of this list in terms of amount of yarn they take from Cyclo. Every season, they take 1.5 million kgs of Cyclo yarn and this figure is getting bigger day by day. The clothing collections and other goods made from this yarn are exported to the US, Canada, Germany, UK, Spain and Japan, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Holland, Sweden, Finland, France and many other countries around the globe.

Production capacity

Simco is producing 13 tonnes of yarn every day in their Bhaluka factory. This venture started with only 250 people and this has increased to 700 workers at present. Last two years have seen a 60 per cent increase in their capacity and Munir added that they produced 2400 tons of Cyclo fiber in the fiscal year 2011-12 which soared to a heaping 4400 tons in the year 2021-22. At the same period their turned multiplied from 3.6 million USD to 13.5 million USD.

Sweater and jeans made of Cyclo fiber
Sweater and jeans made of Cyclo fiber

Old waste, new waste and…

So far, the yarn under the brand name Cyclo is being produced using unused waste material. But there is a good prospect for production from reused waste as well. But unfortunately the unavailability of enough such raw materials is coming in the way of actually executing it. Even at the primary stage, reused fashion waste should result in at least 200 kg raw material which cannot be obtained at present from local source.

Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh don’t seem to be interested in working with yarns made out of recycled yarn. So far only a few local names like Dhaka Republic, Para, Khelo Bd, Motif and Handtouch utilise Cyclo yarn. The main reason for thus abstinence can be perceived as the disinterest of local consumers to buy clothes made out of recycled yarn. As the clothing made from recycled yarn are not as smooth and perfectly finished as the wearable produced from completely virgin materials, the mainstream consumers don’t seem to be inclined towards buying them in our country.

Those who really have a sense of responsibility and have a conscience would desperately play some part in conserving the environment by discouraging and abandoning the global fast fashion craze

The production of recycled yarn in Bangladesh

At present, apart from Simco, four more organisations produce recycled yarn. In near future, this figure is expected to surpass ten, Musafain Munir said. He also said many other companies are getting interested in taking up such initiatives.

Most of our fashion waste is exported. If this could be retained and collected locally, Simco group alone could have produced even bigger amount of recycled yarn effectively. They produce more than 5000 tons of Cyclo fiber at present which is likely to increase a lot conforming to the growing demand for it. They are also working on modernising the factory further in this course.

Close loop and Cyclo

As it is very hard for the production companies to collect jhoot or fashion waste from local market due to different reasons, fashion brands that want to make use of recycled yarn are inclined to close loop production. In this way they can reuse their own fashion waste and contribute more effectively in implementing sustainable production. In this process they send their own waste to the companies like Cyclo who make yarn by recycling those. This cyclic process is creating a greatly effective close loop for reusing fashion waste. Here the fashion waste is coming to the yarn production company where they go through the spinning mills, textile mills, and then readymade garments factories and at last fashion warehouse and outlets. In this tightly knit loop, there is little scope for wastage.

Last December, Circular fashion partnership started global fashion agenda and in primal stage, Bestseller joined in along with their recycling partner Simco. The goal for this partnership is to reuse fashion waste in least possible time to produce new clothing items. And no doubt, Simco showed success in this respect.

The driving force behind the success of Cyclo as stated by Mustafain Munir is collaboration. Bestseller is known to be a frontrunner in terms of sustainable production and we also want to work with such companies who are not objectively going for profit maximisation only and are seriously inclined towards environmental issues.

How to tell if it is real

As there is a cry for saving environment and minimising fashion waste around the world, more and more consumers would spend a substantial amount of money if the clothing is environment friendly and made out of recycled materials. So there is a growing demand that the recycled clothing item comes with an authentication. Nowadays there are various technologies available that allows a simple scanning tool to detect a clothing item produced from an authentic recycled yarn. One such leading technology is ‘Aware’ that incorporates specially designed detector or tracer particles into the recycled yarn. The tracer stores a full set of information about the recycled fiber that is easily shown if it is detected with a scanner. With proper utilisation of block chain technology, unique information about the recycled yarn is stored in a secured database which can be checked for authenticity anytime. Cyclo has gone to the next level in sustainable fashion by collaborating with Aware as it will build trust in their consumers mind and their goodwill is sure to be facilitated greatly through this major timely step.

Fashion textile waste is piling up everywhere, especially, landfills which are extremely detrimental to the environment. So those who really have a sense of responsibility and have a conscience would desperately play some part in conserving the environment by discouraging and abandoning the global fast fashion craze. If we can divert the fashion lovers around the world from fast fashion and motivate them in being a part of sustainable fashion movement, it will decrease the global waste to a great extent. China, India and Turkey are among the countries that are quite upfront in reusing and recycling fashion waste compared to other countries including Bangladesh.

As one of the largest producers and exporters of readymade garments in the world, there is ample scope for us for taking proper planned steps in recycling and reusing fashion waste. It can be said undoubtedly that Simco can be called a pioneer in this sector and many are following their footsteps now. The resultant effect of these ventures at the national and international level will surely bring down pollution, create more employment and eventually this will go a long way to achieve the sustainability in our economy.

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