Value-added plastic recycling

For a long time, we have heard about plastic waste being recycled to make low-end products. In other words, it means making products similar to the original plastic products before they are thrown away, such as bottles, polythene bags, etc. Now, with technology working wonders, recycling is on its way to making products like yarn for fabrics. A dramatic development, as recently reported in the media, this movement, if pursued effectively, looks like a huge milestone in recycling technology. More so, it is the likely prospect of producing value-added products that inspires hope despite the well-known devastation caused by plastic waste of all kinds.

Needless to say, plastic litter has wreaked havoc all over the world, threatening people’s lives and livelihoods by precipitating serious environmental degradation – not all of which is simple and easily visible. In developed Western countries, plastic waste management is an ever-evolving process, and many of these countries are able to do fairly good damage control through various recycling methods with technology as the main aid.

In our case, the plastic waste recycling situation is a grim reflection of the serious environmental risks posed by the plastics industry on the one hand and the masses in general on the other. Although the government grants tax exemption for recycling and some companies also use reduced bank loans for this purpose, recycling is appallingly low. A study conducted in this regard some time ago indicates that only a small volume of plastic waste destined for recycling is actually recycled, leaving the bulk of the harmful elements to cause environmental degradation, soil erosion, waterlogging, etc. However, the study mentions that with the facilities and technology currently available in the country, 50% of the waste could be recycled, if properly used.

The results of the aforementioned study conducted by a private research organization, Waste Concern, reveal that up to 72% of plastic waste is not recycled. The study further mentions that this high volume of waste, improperly disposed or recycled, deprives the country of substantial revenue which could be around 61.50 billion taka per year. The annual output of the country’s plastic factories, from more than 5,000 units, is about 4.0 million tons, of which more than 1.0 million tons turn into waste. But the volume of recycled waste, according to the study, is only about 28%.

It is undoubtedly the flip side of the plastics industry outlook that makes effective waste management an integral part of exploiting the plastics manufacturing outlook. It is this urgency that prompted speakers at a recent webinar to highlight the collaborative efforts of government and the private sector to work on an effective recycling and waste management policy. According to experts, this is the key to boosting the prospects of the country’s plastics industry. While infrastructure improvement and product development are integral to growing the industry to desired levels, waste management and recycling are some of the critical areas needing urgent attention. It has been found that of all kinds of waste accumulated daily in the country, the share of plastic is more than 60%. However, waste disposal is relatively easier compared to that from other sources due to the user-friendly recycling technology. But in the absence of systematic waste collection methods and recycling facilities, most of the waste is left to pollute the environment.

One of the main benefits that most countries derive from recycled plastic waste is a substantial saving on the purchase of raw materials and an increase in revenue from recycled products. The findings of the above-mentioned study indicate that if waste from plastic factories in Dhaka and surrounding areas were recycled using appropriate technology, 75% of the waste could be transformed into fresh products, representing a cost saving. approximately 7.0 billion taka in foreign currency. This indeed explains why recycling and the growth of the country’s plastics sector are mutually inclusive and mutually reinforcing.

It is in this context that recycling plastic waste to make yarn for fabric is not only an exemplary gesture in better waste management but, more importantly, in the production of value-added products. Yarns from plastic waste can be used to make garments such as outerwear, padding and quilting. According to reports citing the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), a number of local companies have set up factories to make flakes from discarded plastic bottles to produce recycled yarns and fabrics. The move is potentially attractive to many other investors, especially apparel manufacturers and exporters, as there would be growing global demand for fabrics made from a blend of cotton and discarded plastic product yarns. , especially bottles. Observers argue that although it is a new phenomenon in waste management as well as in the manufacture of value-added products, Bangladesh can rise high given its comparative advantage over most producing countries. or plan to do so. Government support is indeed crucial at this nascent stage.

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