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Recycled plastic becomes gowns for new grads

EcoNote | May 20, 2016 | By:

Some college grads this spring will be picking up their diplomas wearing the same plastic bottles they discarded over the previous four years.

Greensboro, N.C.-based yarn developer Unifi is working with Oak Hall Cap & Gown of Salem, Va., to outfit nearly half a million graduates in schools around the country. The gowns are made of a fabric called REPREVE®, which is derived from recycled plastic bottles. Among those using REPREVE-based gowns are Brown University, Michigan State, University of Alabama and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as more than 1,250 other schools.

According to the company, over the next 10 years, college graduates from the class of 2016 are estimated to use more than 3 billion plastic bottles. With the U.S. recycling rate at 31 percent, more than 2 billion of those bottles will likely end up in landfills where they may never biodegrade.

To combat that waste, Unifi has mounted the #TurnItGreen tour to educate college students, along with the general public, about the importance of recycling and buying products made with recycled materials. The tour stops at universities, retail locations, major entertainment and sporting events and elementary schools.

REPREVE is also used in a variety of auto, outdoor, home and apparel products. Since the introduction of REPREVE, Unifi has recycled and transformed more than 4 billion plastic bottles into REPREVE fiber.

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