Plastic industry has huge possibility to grow in Bangladesh: Bengal Director
For the last two decades, the use of plastic in the country is continuously rising and it is being a substitute for wood and metal because of its light weight and durability. So there is a huge possibility for the plastic sector to grow here, said Mr Humayun Kabir, director of the Bengal Plastic Ltd, one of the largest market players in the plastic industry.
Mr Humayun Kabir, also the son of the Bengal Group's Chairman and founder Mr Morshed Alam, came up with his views on the prospect of the industry in an interview with The Business Standard.
What about the country's plastic market?
Since 2005, Bangladesh's plastic market has increased five times. Currently, our per capita plastic consumption is 9 kilogrammes.
But the consumption is 130kg in developed countries like the US and it is 100kg in Europe.
And in Bangladesh, in accordance with the development of people's standard of living, the consumption of plastic is on the rise. The 9kg per capita consumption is related to only domestic uses of plastic, apart from the industrial and building material.
So there is still more room for improvement and a huge opportunity to make the market bigger.
Plastic is a substitute for wood and metal because of its portability and durability. Plastic is also replacing many other materials.
If we talk about building materials, we are still using aluminium or MS profile, but developed countries are not using aluminium for windows profile doors anymore. They are using a PVC profile.
Moving forward, Bangladesh is also taking that path. Once, metal doors were used in bathrooms but now it is being replaced with plastic doors. Even at home, people are using plastic doors instead of wooden doors. Furthermore, PVC pipes are being used in water lines and bathroom fittings.
Are there any benefits of using plastic pipes?
A plastic pipe is more durable than a metal pipe. It lasts long. There is a kind of plastic, CPVC or PPR, through which hot water can pass and there is no change in the quality of the product.
Even Dhaka Wasa is changing its metal pipes. It has started using high-pressure plastic pipes.
Tell us about the journey of your company.
Bengal Plastic was founded by my father Morshed Alam in 1969 in Old Dhaka. Initially, the company started by making plastic parts and engineering items for jute and textile mills.
After the independence of Bangladesh, Bengal's business rose and most of the jute and textile mills in the country were its clients.
Later in the early 90s, jute and textile mills fared badly. So we required diversification.
Accordingly, we started manufacturing housewares. Then, there were very few professional companies which made plastic housewares.
But we faced tremendous competition from other manufacturers of Old Dhaka as they marketed low-quality products at a meagre price. We had not compromised the quality of our products, so we had to stop production.
Again, we had gone through a diversification. In the mid-90s, the garment industry was booming in the country. Then, Bengal Plastic started to manufacture garments, accessories and hangers for the sector.
And all of a sudden, our business started to grow manifold, so we went for export. In the last 10 years, Bengal's business increased four times.
Now we are the second largest garments accessories producer. We produce about 2.5 million pieces of hangers every day.
The journey to furniture manufacturing
In 1992-93, all the beverage companies in Bangladesh planned to replace all wooden crates, which were used to carry glass bottles of beverages, with plastic.
Then, Bengal entered the market by making plastic crates for the beverage industry and containers for industrial uses and became the only crate manufacturer for Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
That was also a good business and lasted for around eight years. After that, glass bottles were replaced with PET bottles. So the demand for the crates decreased.
Then, as part of the plan of keeping the machine used to make crates operational, Bengal started to manufacture big plastic items like chairs, stools etc.
The demand for those products was also increasing massively. So, we set up a separate unit for those products.
Now there are different entities for making different products like garment hangers, housewares, PVC and export items.
Currently, we are also the second largest plastic products manufacturing company in the country.
What are the challenges of the industry?
Currently, our major challenge is the energy crisis, including gas and electricity. Frequent power shuts are cutting our productivity.
In the plastic industry, a one-minute power cut means a loss of one-hour production. The material that remains in the machine gets damaged. We need an uninterrupted power supply.
Another challenge is the plastic sector needs continuous investment to remain state-of-the-art in the market. But an investment-friendly financing mode is absent in our country. We need long-term loans. But our policy does not support such loans.
Tell us about the environmental impact of the plastic industry.
Some try to look down on the plastic sector in the name of the environment. But plastic is indirectly helping the environment. Tree cutting is decreasing as wood use is dropping due to plastic.
However, if plastic is used efficiently, the environment will not be harmed. Instead, all will benefit.
As a manufacturer, we are very cautious about it. We have separate recycling units at each factory. Furthermore, we are setting up a central recycling unit to recycle all the plastic wastes – both ours and others.
We are also working towards building a green factory. We are installing solar-power panels in all our factories to produce 2-3 megawatt electricity. And we are harvesting rainwater.
Significantly, we are the first and only company in Bangladesh to get the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification, recognition as a sustainable, green and healthy factory.
From where is the plastic waste sourced?
We procure plastic waste from dealers in the open market. We pay the dealer per kg of waste. However, we want to make the process more effective by developing a system, which requires government involvement.
If all the stakeholders, including consumers, sellers and manufacturers, have become aware of plastic waste management, the environmental issue may be solved.
Does the country have the capacity to manufacture plastic raw materials?
Currently, plastic raw material is being imported from abroad as Bangladesh is yet to be able to produce it. Many foreign companies had come to invest in raw material production but failed. The main reason is the poor quality of the country's gas as plastic raw materials production is highly gas-oriented.
However, a local company is going to produce raw materials for PVC and PET. I hope the country will be able to get it soon.
Why will people buy your products?
People will buy Bengal Plastic's products as we never compromise on quality and safety. We maintain quality and safety giving the utmost priority. We use proper materials, which are required for that product.
We use BPA free plastic for food containers, so that food will not be contaminated. We also test our products in international labs to see if there are any health hazards. Also, the raw materials we bring from suppliers are also tested in labs.
Our chairman always emphasises quality, delivery and services.
Plastic Industry / Bengal Plastic Ltd / plasticFoisal AhmedFor the last two decades, the use of plastic in the country is continuously rising and it is being a substitute for wood and metal because of its light weight and durability. So there is a huge possibility for the plastic sector to grow here, said Mr Humayun Kabir, director of the Bengal Plastic Ltd, one of the largest market players in the plastic industry. Mr Humayun KabirThe Business StandardWhat about the country's plastic market?Are there any benefits of using plastic pipes?Tell us about the journey of your company.The journey to furniture manufacturingWhat are the challenges of the industry?Tell us about the environmental impact of the plastic industry.From where is the plastic waste sourced?Does the country have the capacity to manufacture plastic raw materials?Why will people buy your products?