Plastic waste is changing into resources and providing livelihood to a half of million people in Bangladesh
By Zeba Tarannum
Many valuable items, including yarn, blankets, and synthetic carpets, are being made from discarded plastic waste. And from the export of this plastic waste, about 20 million dollars foreign currency enters the country every year.
It proved that due to the plastic waste, the soil is becoming infertile, and the environment is being polluted. But at present more than five lakh people have made a living from that waste. These discarded plastic bottles are being crushed and exported as pet flex to different countries.
For this, about 2.5 thousand small and big bottle crushing factories have set up in different parts of the country, including the capital. More than 60,000 people are working in these factories. Countless environmental friends (Tokai, destitute children) are collecting bottles and supplying raw materials to these factories. According to the two City Corporations of Dhaka, 1.5 lakh people are making a living by collecting and selling plastic waste in the capital alone.
Plastic waste is going abroad as ‘Petflex’ through 80 exporters by going through broken materials collecting (Bhangari) shops, wholesale buyers, crushing factories. Some are using in the textile and plastic industries of the country. According to the concerned, the plastic bottles that are not perishable is still out of the collection.
It knows that about 4 million PET bottles and jars are made in Bangladesh every year, 3.5 billion of which discard after one-time use. And to produce new bottles more than 90,000 tons of PET resin import annually.
About 30,000 tons of plastic are recycled to make various materials in the country. Of which 45 to 55 thousand tons of plastic waste exports in the form of pet flex. Some usees locally.
The rest spread in the environment. Traders of this sector believe that if the waste collectors give reasonable prices as well as raising awareness, then most of the plastic waste could turn into a resource.
SA Kabir Noton, Senior Vice President of BPFMEA (Petflex Manufacturers and Exporters Association) said, the recycling of plastic waste is playing a bigger role in protecting the environment than business. For this reason, various countries have reduced imports and emphasized recycling their plastic waste. So the competition has increased.
However, demand is also growing. Once China used to buy 90% of our plastic waste. Waste from all over the world used to enter China. However, in December 2017, they stopped importing plastic waste due to the transmission of various diseases, including SARS from medical waste and for recycling their plastic waste. A large portion of waste has exported to India in the last two years.
The country has a demand of about one lakh metric tons of pet flex per month. We export 4.5 to 5 thousand metric tons. Factories in the country are using 2.5 thousand tons of pet flex per month. Now we are trying to capture the European market.
Currently, our Petflex is going to Turkey, Poland, Spain, Russia, America, and Vietnam. But we have to give good quality hot washed products in Europe. We have very few factories to produce such products. To capture the European market, we need to increase the number of improved factories.
A big investment is needed. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Former Finance Minister, gave us a 10 per cent incentive. If the government increases the incentive in this sector, many will come forward. According to the information of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), in the 2009-10 financial year, plastic waste worth 16 million dollars exported.
In the 2011-12 financial year, the export income was about 43 million dollars. According to BPFMEA, this business started in Bangladesh in 2001. The business started gaining popularity when China started importing pet flex from Bangladesh in 2005-2006. The government also gives a 10 per cent incentive for its role in protecting the environment.
At that time 30 traders used to export pet flex, but now that number has increased to 80. However, the suffering in this sector started when China stopped importing plastic waste. Although in the 2016-17 financial year, 45,474 metric tons of plastic waste worth more than 22.9 million dollars exported. But in the next financial year, the export was 32,235 metric tons.
However, with the emergence of the market in Europe, the industry has begun to gain popularity again. Traders are saying although China stopped importing, the demand for pet flex is increasing globally. It uses to make many expensive items, including new plastic bottles, textile yarn, blankets, and velvet.
Some factories in Bangladesh are also recycling plastics to make fibres, hangers, vessels, buckets. If we can capture the European-American market, it is possible to employ more than 1 million people by exporting waste.