Turning waste into wealth | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:04 AM, November 27, 2020

Turning waste into wealth

Bogura weavers are producing yarn, warm clothes worth Tk 200 crore annually from waste fabric

Bogura, which has always been a district town known for centuries-old archaeological sites, is also home to around 10,000 families of weavers.

These weavers have been making a fortune for the last four decades out of a by-product of Bangladesh's multi-billion-dollar apparel sector – waste fabric or jhoot. 

The artists at Adamdighi upazila in the district situated on the bank of the Karatoya river have dedicated their lives producing yarn and warm clothes since the British era.

They now produce different items like blanket, shawl, sweater, towel, socks, muffler, caps, neck warmers and bedsheets worth over Tk 200 crore every year.

The weavers mostly sell their produce at the Shaul Haat, a temporary bazar, which sits twice a week. Buyers from all parts of the country flock to the place in large numbers.

"Of the Tk 200 crore, 60 per cent comes from the sales of yarn," said Mofazzal Hossain, president of the Tontubahi Somobay Samity of the Haat.

There are around 1,200 small traders, and they sell products worth nearly Tk 3.5 crore a week, said Hossain, who is also the owner of Baraka Traders, which sells warm clothes worth Tk 1 crore a year.

"I buy waste fabric at Tk 10-20 per kg and rejected yarn at Tk 100-300 per kg," said Nazrul Islam, another trader of Shaul Haat.

"I collect those items from Dhaka's Mirpur-10 Jhoot Palli and sell them in my upazila. My annual sales figure hovers around Tk 1-2 crore."

In Shaul Bazar, there are over 1,500 local shopkeepers who separate yarn from garment waste and sell them to the weavers.

Nearly 1,500 traders are also there to collect warm clothes from the local manufacturers to sell to the buyers in different districts.

Md Duranta, a trader hailing from Tangail, told The Daily Star that he came to the bazar with six other traders to buy yarn.

"We will buy around seven tonnes of yarn and make shawl for women in Tangail. This bazar is our only source for this type of cotton-yarn at low prices."

"Last year we bought ready yarns at Tk 140-180 a kg, which has increased to Tk 210-300 a kg because of the coronavirus pandemic," said Hossain.

The Covid-19 epidemic has taken a heavy toll on the weavers, especially women, who play an important role in separating yarn from garment wastage.

Not a single product was sold in the first two months of the countrywide shutdown the government imposed in March, Hossain said.

However, the pandemic could not stop the local weavers from producing quality products.

Nurul Amin, a shopkeeper who came from Narayanganj, said he is impressed with the quality and price of the shawls that are sold in the bazar.

"I usually buy 1,000-2,000 pieces of shawls every year from the bazar."

Some of the families of weavers had been doing business in the region since the British era by importing yarn from Kolkata. But after the independence of India, the supply of yarn from Kolkata came to a halt and the local industry collapsed during the late 1970s.

In the beginning of the 1980s, some weavers found jhoot in Dhaka's Mirpur area and considered giving a new start to the trade they practised for ages.

In the next few years, many weavers returned to the business in the adjacent Naogaon, Gaibandha and Joypurhat districts, said Mofazzal Hossain.

This reporter visited the surrounding areas of Shaul bazar and found people were passing busy times in producing clothes.

"We are a traditional weaver family. We have been in the trade since the British era," said Mokbul Islam, who along with his wife, son and daughter-in-law have mastered the art of producing blankets.

"Our grandchild is also involved in the production. Four members of our family produce 2,000 to 3,000 pieces of blankets a year and make a profit of Tk 2,000 a week."

Sabina Begum, 35, was seen processing yarn on an auto machine.

"I bought a new electric cooling machine with Tk 18,000 two months ago to process yarn, and now I am making a profit of Tk 20,000 a month."

Ansar Ali of Deul village said: "Ten members of my family make shawls with the help of power looms. We produce 10,000 shawls a year and make a profit of Tk 30,000 a month."

The weekly market of weavers has also become a source of earning for around 6,000 women living in the adjacent 40 villages, who separate yarn from garments wastage.

"We start our work at 8:00 am, and it continues until 5:00 pm every day," said 32-year-old Parvin Akter.

Women are paid less than men for the same job here, said Piasa Begum, 35, who came from Sonarpara village. "Male labourers get Tk 300 a day while it is only Tk 170 for females."

Women from needy families come here for works, said Sahida Akter, another woman labourer.

"Two weeks ago, the wage was raised to Tk 170 a day from Tk 150. Still, the pay is very low compared to the hard work we have to put in every day."

The collection of garment wastage has started increasing recently when the country's apparel makers began receiving work orders again.

Yarn manufacturing business is entirely dependent on the garment sector. "If apparel makers do good business, we do good business," said Hossain.

The prices of raw materials for making warm clothes have increased since the coronavirus hit the country, said Abdul Kuddus, a local buyer of garment waste.

"I went to Dhaka eight days ago to buy jhoot from Mirpur-10. One kg of jhoot was sold at Tk 15-50 and rejected yarn at Tk 150-350, which were Tk 5-10 and Tk 100-200 respectively last year."

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