The beginning and evolution
BRAC Recycled Handmade Paper (RHMP) was initiated as a Rural Enterprise Project (REP) in 2000 with an aim to help prevent environmental degradation by targeting the corporate urban market in Bangladesh to recycle their paper waste. On a different note, it was also introduced to support a small group of drop out female students from BRAC’s education programme by providing them jobs at the production facility of this enterprise.
Being a pioneer in the promotion and development of recycled handmade paper and paper products in Bangladesh, this project later evolved into an enterprise in 2009. Although there have been a few scattered producers of this product feeding the niche market and export industry of Bangladesh prior to the evolution of this enterprise, BRAC Handmade Recycled Paper happens to be the first entity to make a proactive approach by manufacturing and retailing the products in urban market under the brand name Kanon.
The present scenario
Today people are more environmentally conscious, and hence their response towards this enterprise is accelerating faster than ever. The idea of reducing paper wastages and modifying them into creative stationeries intrigue most people, and the satisfaction of contributing even a tiny portion to the environment happens to be a cherry on top. Today BRAC RHMP operates as one of BRAC’s three Green Enterprises, and produces synthesised paper products from recycled materials, such as, used papers, stalks of wheat, hay, water hyacinth, caustic soda, dye, barley, glue and cotton. These materials are gathered from various BRAC projects and branch offices, thus helping reduce the amount of waste produced by BRAC, and contributing toward employment generation for women and ‘going green’ initiatives nationwide in the process.
In addition to its committed contribution to the environment, BRAC RHMP has also been supporting the all-female employee group working at the production facility with unequivocal employment opportunities and fare wages. About 100 women are currently working at the production facility of this enterprise, located at Shombhuganj, Mymensingh, and their payments are made based on the quantity of products they put together. Hence the more products get sold in the urban market, the more income these women are able to generate. As these products are strictly handmade, more women are going to get employed at the production facility if the market demand increases. Apart from the workers, the customers belonging to the urban population group, especially the corporate offices also fall into the category of BRAC RHMP beneficiaries as they are actually able to reduce the wastage of paper by exchanging these with this enterprise, only to purchase brand new items manufactured by their own waste.
Change in goal/mission
The mission of the Recycled Handmade Paper enterprise has not changed, but rather modified and expanded. At first it was only to recycle and reuse the paper wasted by most of the corporate lines. But now it has started retailing its products at BRAC’s brand new green outlet named Kanon. An exchange offer is going on at present in which any corporate enterprise can deliver its wasted paper to RHMP to get them recycled so that these are bought back again by the same enterprise. This is playing a huge role in decreasing the wastage of paper in corporate offices and thus helping our environment in the process. In this offer, the RHMP collects the paper waste of corporate offices to modify and customise them into handmade paper or paper products as per their demand and sell it back to them. They can also place their orders from a range of products already offered by RHMP.
The market for recycled handmade paper products is growing rapidly; hence it is more likely to be expanding in the near future. Introduction of a new, mechanised process in making the products is being planned. The mainstream paper products are going to be handmade as usual, but the now semi-mechanised production of paper is going to be mechanised to support a larger scale of production and meet the growing demand for recycled paper in Bangladesh. One of the most important goals are to make the handmade recycled paper and paper products more accessible in the urban market, thus providing more income generating opportunities for rural women.