Unifi said the center will help the company achieve its goal of vertical integration for its Repreve recycled product line, adding flexibility, expanding production capabilities and supporting volume growth.
Repreve is Unifi’s recycled brand made from recycled materials such as plastic water bottles. The Repreve Bottle Processing Center will add 87 jobs in the Reidsville area, ranging from salaried managers and engineers, to hourly operators, material handlers, electricians and mechanics, the company said.
The Repreve Bottle Processing Center includes more than 150,000 square feet of space to be utilized for the operation. The state-of-the-art recycling center has the capacity to produce 75 million pounds of high-quality, consistent, clean bottle flake annually.
Rockingham County provided a $25,000 matching grant that allowed the Repreve Bottle Processing Center expansion to qualify for a Building Reuse Grant of $500,000 from the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority under the Rural Economic Development Division at the North Carolina Department of Commerce. To support the expansion of the facility, a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $861,000 from the North Carolina Department of Commerce was awarded to the city of Reidsville for a larger sewer line to replace aged infrastructure.
“This expansion of Unifi’s Repreve business will bring jobs to our state and furthers North Carolina’s leadership in high-tech manufacturing,” said North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. “I am proud that our efforts to improve North Carolina’s business climate, invest in infrastructure and encourage building reuse have helped companies like Unifi grow and succeed.”
Unifi will purchase baled PET bottles from materials recovery facilities across the eastern U.S. and bring them to the processing center, where undesirable materials will be sorted and filtered using multiple processes to ensure that only the proper, high-quality bottles are kept for use. Unifi will then remove labels, debris and caps from the remaining PET bottles.
These bottles will be chopped into flake, washed, dried and bagged for use in the production of Repreve polyester and nylon fibers or sold to other companies for a variety of consumer packaging applications, such as thermo-formed food-grade packaging like cups and takeout containers, as well as nonfood applications such as strapping and film.
“The vertical integration of our Repreve manufacturing process highlights an important next step in Unifi’s continued path toward sustainability and producing high-quality, value-added products,” said Tom Caudle, president of Unifi. “The Repreve Bottle Processing Center uses custom-designed, cutting-edge technology and provides increased flexibility that will allow us to better serve our customers, as well as create a new channel of revenue. We are also proud to support manufacturing in North Carolina and to add new jobs in our communities.”
Since inception, Unifi has recycled more than four billion plastic water bottles into Repreve. The Repreve #TurnItGreen initiative is designed to encourage recycling and raise awareness among consumers that recycled bottles can be turned into cool products they use every day.
Among the brands that use Repreve in the apparel industry are Levi’s, Haggar, The North Face, Patagonia and Quiksilver.