Waste to Wealth: Insights from Teejay’s pursuit of true circularity in apparel

Sri Lanka’s textile manufacturers have played an integral role in the supply chain of the
country’s largest export market, navigating unprecedented challenges in the last three years
to ensure the apparel industry remains competitive and meets set delivery timelines.
Remaining well ahead of the curve, the textile industry has focused on circularity through
sustainability compliance, innovation, global best practices, and integrated systems and
processes that reflect green business models. This industry has showcased a manufacturing
culture that goes beyond compliance.
Teejay Lanka PLC, one of the largest textile manufacturers and a role model for circularity in
the industry, has embraced a model of reduce, reuse, recycle, renew, and regenerate the
solid wastes since its inception, aiming to move towards 100% value addition to waste. By
integrating the principles of circularity into its business, Teejay Lanka PLC ensures that
resources and products used in the value chain are utilized, recycled, composted, and
reused, reverting into a new lifecycle or returning to the supply chain.
The Company’s commitment to a green future is highlighted by notable achievements
including being the first textile manufacturer in Sri Lanka to receive membership in the US
Cotton Trust Protocol and the first in the industry to develop green fabric.
Transformative Measures for True Circularity
Elaborating on the Company’s continuous pursuit of circularity, Teejay General Manager of
Engineering and Sustainability Edga Melan notes, “Circularity in apparel is an ambitious
goal. But if we are able to accomplish this in apparel, then any industry can adapt to more
sustainable models of production. This is the reason we constantly strive to intervene in the
production process when inefficiencies, waste, or unproductive practices are identified. By
maintaining our focus on circularity principles, we can restructure and revamp stages in the
production process and further our goal of adopting a low-impact, circular production
A study conducted by Cambridge University in 2022 estimated that Sri Lanka’s textile
industry produces 30,000 tonnes 1 of waste annually and being a key player in the industry,
Teejay Lanka recognizes the urgency to address waste management challenges. Edga
emphasizes that waste reduction goes beyond achieving zero waste. “We focus on
effectively measuring and managing waste by quantifying at each production processes in
relation to fabric output. This approach enables the identification of improvement
opportunities and sets the stage for sustainable waste management.”
Honing Comprehensive Waste Management Protocols
Teejay has adopted a comprehensive waste management approach that encompasses
waste segregation, extended disposal networks, and supplier responsibility. Recognizing the
need for immediate action, Teejay implemented a solid waste management policy that
outlines stringent guidelines for waste disposal.
Waste collectors, including individual entrepreneurs, SMEs and individuals, also play an
integral role in Teejay’s waste management ecosystem. Through the Waste Collectors’
Forum, Teejay promotes knowledge sharing, appreciation and inclusivity.
The Waste Collectors’ Forum serves as a platform for waste collectors to share best
practices and align with Teejay’s waste management policies. This initiative has proven to
be groundbreaking, as waste collectors often operate in the shadows without recognition or
involvement in organizational forums.
1 https://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/insights/sustainability/turning-waste-into-high-value-products-in-sri-lanka/

Drawing inspiration from international sustainable best practices, Teejay recognizes the
importance of establishing open platforms for discussions on sustainability programs, ideas
and integration into Sri Lanka’s infrastructure. These forums can create significant positive
impacts on the economy, prompting action to initiate them.
Teejay’s recognition of the waste collectors’ role in the supply chain empowers them and
emphasizes their contribution to sustainable waste management. Moreover, this forum
serves as a catalyst for the exchange of innovative and efficient waste management
practices among industry stakeholders.
Collaborative innovation for a greener future
For Teejay, sustainability is both a competitive edge and a collective necessity that requires
cross-industry collaboration. By collaborating and sharing best practices, companies can
comprehensively analyse the value chain, aligning with the EU’s push for sustainability
across supply chains.
The Company adopts a cradle-to-gate approach in waste management, taking responsibility
for waste disposal until it exits the factory premises. This extended supplier responsibility
ensures proper handling of waste beyond Teejay’s boundaries.
Teejay’s commitment to waste reduction extends to the creative reuse of plastic barrels. By
recycling these barrels, Teejay has reduced solid waste by a remarkable 3,960 barrels
annually. To put the saving in perspective, stacked on top of each other, this would be
equivalent to approximately 1.4 times the height of South Asia’s tallest building, the Lotus
Tower. The plastic barrels are converted into innovative applications including recycled
pipes, flowerpots, electrical enclosures, conduit accessories, etc.
The Company also demonstrates its commitment to sustainability by repurposing fly ash
from coal, a by-product of its thermal energy generation, as a valuable substance for organic
fertilizer, maximizing resource efficiency and minimizing waste in the production process.
In addition to the initiatives above, Teejay introduced an sustainable waste disposal method
where the Company converts its daily output of wet sludge into dry powder which is then
used as a material substance for cement manufacturing. This has resulted in 81% reduction
in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions at its factory located at the Seethawaka Export
Processing Zone (EPZ). 2
Forging a path to collective circularity
As the industry adapts to a future driven by sustainability, Teejay Lanka PLC is emerging as
a trailblazer in pioneering waste management practices to mitigate environmental impact
and contribute to a greener world.
However, Edga emphasized the need for cross-industry collaboration, along with intra-
industry collaboration, to collectively move towards a more sustainable future. This
collaboration will facilitate the implementation of sustainable practices across Sri Lanka’s
infrastructure and foster ground-breaking projects that revolutionize the country’s
sustainability landscape.
“With EU legislation coming into play, it is essential for all Sri Lankan apparel companies to
prioritize traceability and transparency in the manufacturing processes by inculcating ethical
business practices. By integrating digital traceability tools and ensuring accountability, we
can credibly verify our progress and prove that we really are meeting consumer demands. At
2 https://www.ft.lk/sustainability__environment/Teejay-Lanka-achieves-81-emission-reduction-from-sludge-

Teejay, we are committed to meeting our circularity goals by leveraging innovation and
cross-industry collaboration. By working towards collective sustainability, we can maximize
our resource efficiency and show the world a better way to produce apparel.”


Image Captions
Image 1 – Edga Melan, General Manager of Engineering and Sustainability, Teejay Lanka
Image 2 – By recycling barrels, Teejay has reduced solid waste by a remarkable 3,960
barrels annually
Image 3 & 4 – A Waste Collectors’ Forum organized by Teejay promoting knowledge
sharing, appreciation and inclusivity among stakeholders who play an integral role in the
waste management ecosystem
Image 5 & 6 – By integrating the principles of circularity into its business, Teejay Lanka PLC
ensures that resources and products used in the value chain are utilized, recycled,
composted, and reused

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