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New Partnerships for Unifi, Kimberly-Clark, North Face To Eradicate Plastic Waste

Plastic bottles will find new life in textiles and nitrile gloves are being recycled into new consumer goods through corporate partnerships.

Plastic bottles will find new life in textiles and nitrile gloves are being recycled into new consumer goods through corporate partnerships.

Global textile manufacturer Unifi has announced a multi-year agreement to become an official recycling partner of the PGA TOUR event contested annually at Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club. It is estimated that tens of thousands of plastic bottles will be recycled into Unifi’s REPREVE® performance fiber through this partnership.

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“The recycling rate for plastic bottles in the U.S. is low – about 28 percent,” said Unifi CEO Kevin Hall. “Through this partnership, we’re able to divert thousands of bottles from the landfill and show tournament patrons some of the innovative things we can do with them. Our goal is to inspire people to recycle more, buy recycled and join in our efforts to help protect our natural resources. We are excited to partner with the Wyndham Championship to help educate golf fans and to work together to create a better tomorrow.”

Hall noted that the amount of REPREVE fiber that could be made from 100,000 recycled water bottles could produce 25,000 hats, 33,000 pairs of jeans or 20,000 pairs of casual pants.

At this year’s tournament, which will be held August 13-19, tournament patrons will be encouraged to look for and use the REPREVE recycling receptacles that will be conveniently positioned around the course and in the REPREVE Recycle Zone. REPREVE’S Mobile Tour will be on-site the entire week of the tournament to help educate patrons about how the bottles will be transformed into sustainable performance fibers. They will also have the opportunity to see and touch products from global brands made with REPREVE.

The North Face will use recycled bottles sourced from national parks in a new product line that will give back to the National Park Foundation.

The apparel manufacturer’s “Bottle Source” program has already collected more than 160,000 lbs. of plastic bottles sourced from waste from Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. The new collection will include soft t-shirts and durable tote bags made from cotton and the recycled bottles. One dollar from each product in the Bottle Source collection will go back to the parks through the National Park Foundation to support sustainability projects, such as bear-proof recycling bins and reusable water bottle filling stations.

The company says the program will bring together key components of the recycling loop — the source, the collector, the thread, and product producer. James Rogers, Director of Sustainability at The North Face, called it “a fitting next step in [the company’s] materials innovation.”

Meanwhile, new figures from Kimberly-Clark Professional and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company reveal that their partnership has diverted more than 6,800 pounds of gloves, equivalent to the weight of more than 450 bowling balls.

Kimberly-Clark’s RightCycle Program was the first large-scale recycling program for manufacturers and companies with non-hazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial waste. Since its launch in 2011, the program has diverted more than 500 tons of waste from landfills. As part of the program, used nitrile gloves and single-use apparel are sent to recyclers in the United States and turned into plastic pellets that are used to create new consumer goods such as flowerpots and lawn furniture, totes and storage bins.

“What’s cool about Kimberly-Clark and the RightCycle Program is they were the first to focus on this material,” said Mandi McKay, sustainability coordinator for Sierra Nevada’s Chico, California headquarters. “Nitrile gloves are not easily recycled. They can't be comingled with other items. It has to be its own process.”

McKay added that the reaction to the program throughout Sierra Nevada has been highly positive. “People think it’s great…. They like that we have an outlet for the gloves. They’re proud. It’s part of our culture, part of their daily job.”

The Sierra Nevada headquarters has won multiple awards for its sustainability efforts, including on-site wastewater treatment and composting facilities as well as the largest solar installation of any craft brewer.