Bangladesh hasn’t often been touted for its sustainability prowess, but just as the Southeast Asian nation has evolved from a nascent garment manufacturer to a full-fledged sourcing destination in little more than 40 years, its processes are advancing just as fast.
Instead of watching the waste from $25 billion worth of ready made garment products make its way to landfills, Simco Spinning and Textiles decided to reclaim it and turn it into sustainably produced yarn.
“In Bangladesh the RMG [ready-made garment] sector is so strong and there’s so much waste being accumulated here, I was thinking how can we reuse this waste in a more environmentally friendly manner which saves water, electricity, dumping, and which can bring value to the textile sector,” Habib Hirji, managing director for Simco Spinning and Textiles, told Sourcing Journal at his office in Dhaka.
Dubbed Cyclo, the regenerated yarns are at once socially responsible and low cost.
Today’s consumers seek more from the brands they buy—many want social responsibility in addition to good value and quality. But one reason eco-friendly garments haven’t been adopted on a grander scale is that they are often cost-prohibitive. Organic fibers are pricier to produce and making them for large-scale manufacturing has not yet been viable for real commerce.
“Manufacturers want to use organic yarn to bring the concept of social responsibility and now organic yarns are becoming more expensive so this recycled yarn is a good substitute,” Hijri said. “It is something that is going to be a major player in the coming days.”
Here’s how the yarns get made: High-quality cotton fabric waste from the company’s existing production are gathered and sorted by color and composition. The respective piles are then shredded and turned into a fiber that gets blended with polyester to increase the yarn’s durability, and then the blend is converted to strands called sliver. The sliver is then fed into an open-end spinning machine that makes the high quality yarn.
What’s most important to note is that no dyes, chemicals or water gets used in the process—which translates to ever sought-after cost savings.
For sweaters, buyers using Cyclo save 30 percent on the yarn cost compared to standard yarns, and for knits, that savings is 15 percent.
Producing one ton of Cyclo saves nearly 1,300 gallons of water, or enough for 32 loads of laundry, and prevents nearly 1,000 gallons of contaminated wastewater from being dumped on local lands. It also saves 36 pounds of chemical products and their accompanying emissions, and enough energy to light 355 bulbs for 24 hours.
The sustainable yarn has been certified by the EU’s Global Recycling Standard and passes all test for pilling, color fastness and the like.
Cyclo has largely been used for socks, towels, gloves and home textiles, but Simco produces knits and sweaters too, and the yarns are a viable substitute for fleece.
Inditex has already tapped into Cyclo, and now H&M and other major German and Italian retailers are working with Cyclo in a more comprehensive way, developing products that can benefit the consumer while still expanding on their commitment to an eco-friendly supply chain.
At present, Simco produces between 270-300 tons of the regenerated yarns per month (9 tons per day), and that number is expected to increase to as much as 15 tons per day.
“I see that definitely we will need to increase our capacity,” Hirji said.