New Approaches to Textile Sludge Management in Bangladesh

Wastewater from textile production is often highly contaminated with dangerous substances. Bangladesh is striving to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of this wastewater through proper treatment. However, these ongoing efforts may be in vain if/when concentrated pollutants in the treatment sludge eventually get released into the environment. As per the existing sludge management rules, the producer of the sludge is responsible for the proper handling and management of this concentrated waste as part of the overall solid waste management. Since treatment sludge from the textile sector is currently categorised as hazardous waste, however, the mandated and actually available disposal options for this treatment sludge are limited.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) wants to shift away from only addressing the issue of sludge handling from an end-of-pipe point of view. Successful sludge management could be facilitated by also looking at options such as the reduction of hazardous chemicals at the source or the application of various Best Available Techniques (BATs). These would go hand-in-hand with a significant trend in textile manufacturing towards environmentally friendly textile products that use less energy and water and fewer toxic chemicals. Under the German Government funded Programme of Social and Environmental Standards (PSES), adelphi worked with GIZ and local service providers in Bangladesh in assessing and documenting these approaches, not only focusing on the technical viability but also emphasising the financial angle.

adelphi analysed the techniques and processes currently in use, the flow of materials and chemical risk profiles. On this basis and in cooperation with the managers and employees of wastewater treatment facilities, adelphi developed approaches to reducing the amount of textile sludge and improve business practices. The documentation in form of business cases as well as the dissemination of the findings (training, workshop, publication) will open new sludge management options for consideration by the sludge producers in the textile sector. The findings are also meant to serve as a basis for discussion with the concerned environmental authorities about a possible recategorisation of textile treatment sludge, if such good environmental practices contributing to the reduction of sludge hazard levels are widely embraced. Additionally, in reaction to the challenges posed by temporary business shutdowns of textile factories and wastewater treatment plants due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the project team developed guidelines for wastewater managers on short notice, enabling them to shut down and restart their treatment plants safely and efficiently. adelphi's experts introduced the most important steps from these guidelines in two workshops to around 350 representatives from industry, business intermediaries, authorities and international brands.