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Unifi Achieves Milestone of Recycling and Transforming 20 Billion Plastic Bottles

Ever wonder where all those plastic water bottles go?

Unifi Inc. takes a lot of them–20 million so far to reach a key goal set in 2017–recycling and transforming most of them into its Repreve brand of recycled performance fibers that have been adopted by more than 500 global brand and textile firms.

“As we celebrate World Environment Day this week, we want to thank all of our brand and mill partners around the globe for helping us reach this significant achievement and working with us to reduce plastic bottle waste,” Tom Caudle, president and chief operating officer of the Greensville, N.C.-based Unifi, said. “Because it takes one plastic bottle an average of 450 years or more to start decomposing, it’s important to keep as much plastic as possible out of our natural and urban landscapes. If each of us makes a conscious effort to recycle, we can improve our environment for today and can protect it for the future.”

To put the milestone into context, 20 billion single-serve plastic bottles can physically circle the Earth approximately 100 times or fill the Empire State Building more than 13 times.

Unifi said recycling and transforming these bottles has the potential to save enough energy to power more than 189,000 average homes for a year; save more than 1.7 billion liters of water, the equivalent of one year of drinking water for approximately 2.3 million people, and improve air quality by avoiding more than 517 million kilograms of CO2 emissions, equal to eliminating CO2 emissions from the consumption of 1.2 million barrels of oil.

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The milestone is also the equivalent of keeping 156 plastic bottles per U.S. household out of the landfill and transforming them into sustainable fabric with Repreve recycled performance fibers that are used in apparel, upholstery, automotive and industrial applications.

The concept for Repreve came about in the early 2000s when Unifi was looking for a way to recycle its own fiber waste. The solution evolved to include using recycled plastic bottles as raw material for fiber, with the option to add performance capabilities like moisture-wicking and odor control.

“Sustainability and recycling are key priorities for Unifi, and we are proud to lead by example as we continue to drive awareness of the importance of recycling,” Caudle added. “Consumer demand for more sustainable products will continue to drive demand for Repreve from our brand, retail and mill partners, and that will help us reach our goal of transforming 30 billion bottles in 2022.”

Unifi also manufactures the proprietary Profiber technologies that offer increased performance, comfort and style advantages. Unifi’s technologies aim to meet consumer needs in moisture management, thermal regulation, antimicrobial, UV protection, stretch, water resistance and enhanced softness.