Graduation Time is Recycling Time

11 Apr 2016

Originally appeared in the NYTimes online on 4/8/2016


Here’s a rationale for drinking from plastic bottles: Consume six, and you can turn them into a nice new shirt; 50 will get you a spiffy fleece jacket; 42 the cloth seats in a Ford Fusion hybrid. And 10.5 million will outfit 400,000 graduating students in caps and gowns with seriously green overtones.

How does it work?

Every plastic bottle has a number on the bottom, 1 to 7, signifying what the container is made of. A “1” consists of the same chemicals as polyester, technically polyethylene terephthalate. At Unifi Manufacturing in Yadkinville, N.C., flakes of those bottles are transformed into a fiber called Repreve, used in thousands of fabrics and other products worldwide — like commencement garb, which takes an average of 27 bottles.

This year, students from about 1,250 colleges will be donning robes made from Repreve. And after the big day, they can drop their regalia in a gown-recycling bin, usually in the student union, to be turned into a new product.

Or they can save it for grad school.