GREENSBORO — Recycling a plastic bottle can feel like an empty gesture. But take heart. Your recycling will help 300,000 students graduate from college this year. That is, they’ll look sharp in their graduation caps and gowns woven from thread that Greensboro-based Unifi makes entirely from recycled materials.
Unifi makes its Repreve synthetic yarn with fibers from a variety of recycled sources, including plastic bottles.
The Oak Hall company of Roanoke, Va., creates its GreenWeaver fabric from that yarn for a line of graduation gowns.
They’ll be on display at Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State and Wake Forest University when students line up for their diplomas.
About 1,100 Wake Forest undergraduates will wear black Oak Hall gowns when they march on the campus quad May 18, said Andy Roush, the general manager of Wake Forest University Stores.
At $40.90 each, the GreenWeaver gowns cost roughly $2 more than conventional gowns.
GreenWeaver gowns will be worn by about 16 percent of the 1.9 million students expected to earn bachelor’s degrees this year.
Unifi’s Repreve, on the market since 2009, has recycled more than 2 billion plastic bottles that are used in such brands as The North Face, Ford and Haggar, the company said.
Even the graduation gowns could have an afterlife.
When the ceremonies are over, graduates who aren’t particularly sentimental about their gowns can drop them in a bin to be recycled one more time for Unifi’s Repreve yarn.
Contact Richard M. Barron at (336) 373-7371, and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.