POST TIME: 4 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Plastic industry poised to play big role

Plastic industry poised to play big role

With net export earnings of $46.63 million in the first six months (July-December) of the current fiscal year (2017-18), compared to only $27.93 million in fiscal year 2015-16, the plastic industry has started playing a significant role in the national economy.

The government is also offering 10 per cent cash incentive on the export of plastic products and will take all necessary steps to ensure the progress of the country's plastic industry.

Experts and stakeholders said proper policy support and more financial incentives could lead to a threefold increase in this sector’s export earnings in the next couple of years.

Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA) president Jashim Uddin told The Independent, “Bangladesh imports more than 155,000 metric tonnes of raw plastic materials each year and the figure is growing continuously.”

“Today, we have around 5,000 small, medium and large plastic goods manufacturing units, while the number was around 3,000 units a couple of years back,” he said.

Approximately, 1.2 million people are engaged in this sector, he said.

About the export factories, the BPGMEA president said, “To meet overseas demand, most of the export factories are enhancing their capacity. We have been exporting reasonable quantities of film plastic, garment accessories made of plastic, and household plastic items to many countries of the world.”

A total of 680 business entities of 360 companies from 16 countries, including China, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE, Singapore, Italy and the UK, participated in the 13th Bangladesh International Plastic, Packaging and Printing Industrial Fair, which ended at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital yesterday.

The four-day plastic fair was organised by the Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA).

Myriad products

RFL Plastics Ltd, a renowned plastic brand, manufactures around 400 products every year and participated in the fair to showcase their products.      

Arafatur Rahman, head of marketing, RFL Plastics, a sister concern of the PRAN-RFL Group, said his company was exporting plastic products to more than 56 countries at present. Nearby and neighbouring countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the prime importers of Bangladeshi plastic products.

“We also export our products to the Middle East and South Africa”, he said.

When asked about the product range, he said, “RFL Plastics Ltd has brought 250 types of plastic products to the fair. We have some exclusive products such as jugs, dinner set, crockery items, baskets, containers and wardrobes that we showcased for customers.”

Replying to a question, he said, the price of dinner sets was in the range of Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,800. The price of wardrobes varied between Tk 2,000 and Tk 8,000.

When queried about the demand and size of the plastic market, Rahman said, “RFL sells Tk 500 to Tk 600 crore worth of goods every year in the local market. The size of the entire local market would be approximately Tk 2,500 crore at present.”

Talking about employment, he said that 50,000 people were already working for RFL Plastics. The company had established plastic manufacturing plants in Dubai, South Africa and India.

About their environment policy, he said, “We are very conscious about protecting the environment and that’s why we protect our environment through the ‘GO GREEN’ policy, which makes it obligatory for us to produce environment friendly products.”

“To conform to safe dumping of factory waste, we have Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP’s) in all the establishments of our Group. We recuperate the heat produced to save energy at all our production facilities in all locations,” he said.

Bengal Polymer Wares Ltd, a concern of the Bengal Group of Industries, is the largest plastic processing industry in Bangladesh.

Talking to The Independent, Bengal Polymer Wares’s area sales manager Al-Rashed said “Bengal Polymer has brought different types of plastic products at this fair. We have some exclusive products such as arm-chairs, kids’ furniture, office chairs, tables, waiting-chairs and wardrobes that were showcased for customers.”

About their production capacity, he said, Bengal plastic is the largest plastic industry in Bangladesh, processing more than 3,000 metric tonnes of raw materials per month.

Hygienic pallets

Bengal introduced hygienic plastic pallets in Bangladesh, which are used to package industrial raw materials and move goods from one place to another, said Rashed.

Al-Rashid added that, earlier, plastic pallets used to be imported. But, now, Bengal has been manufacturing all the products locally for two years. Asked about the use of plastic pallets, he said they were ideal for highly regulated, hygiene-sensitive industries like pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

Hygienic plastic pallets are manufactured entirely by Bengal Polymer. It can be used to hold raw materials of different industrial products, for example, garments, medicines and beverages, he explained.

When asked about the price range of such plastic pallets, Al-Rashed said it was from Tk 3,000 to Tk 9,000. These are optimal, compared to the industry average.

Describing the challenges faced by this industry, he explained that the basic material for manufacturing plastic products is called ‘polymer’. Polymers are imported to the extent of 100 per cent from abroad.

Citing another challenge, he said plastic dice mould machines were also imported. Some of the household products like classic jugs and coffee mugs were being diced and moulded here.

Al-Rashed said Bengal Polymer exported plastic products to countries like South Korea, Japan and the Middle East. Plastic hangers comprise one of the top export-oriented products.

He also said that more than 5 lakh employees work for Bengal Polymer at present and the number was expected to grow every year.

Responding to a question, Al-Rashed said, “In plastic raw materials, 20 per cent is from recycled materials. Hence, it is eco-friendly, and not harmful for the environment.”

Serving other sectors

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem told The Independent, “In Bangladesh, we only use plastic products as consumer goods and finished products but it can be used as raw materials of other sectors such as agriculture, health and industries.”

Moazzem said that the raw materials of 15 to 20 sectors and other allied raw materials can be manufactured with plastics, such as syringes and medical gloves (among medical equipment) and mobile phone cases.

Highlighting some of the challenges, CPD research director said, the plastics that small industries produce were low-quality products that harmed the environment.

The recycle value of low-quality plastic products was low, he added.

Big plastic manufacturing industries have their material recycling plants but small industries produce products without recycling them. The government needs to provide support with fiscal incentives, he added.

Regarding the plastic dice mould machines, he said, “Mould is costly and changeable, depending on consumer demand. Hence, we need more research and development centres to produce moulds or dice domestically.” He suggested developing a technology bank where new designs, new moulds and innovative ideas could be developed.

Given the environmental pollution caused by plastic industries, particularly the non-compliant small-scale ones, he suggested their relocation to environmentally compliant areas.

The research director of the CPD also urged local investors to come forward and explore the local market and go in for joint investments, if necessary.

BPGMEA officials said that the government had taken up a Tk 133 crore project to set up a ‘Plastic Industry City’ on 50 acres of land at Sirajdikhan in Munshiganj district.