As students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities nationwide received their degrees this spring, they marched across the stage in gowns made of recycled plastic bottles, collectively saving an estimated eight million bottles from becoming a trash-heap inheritance. Oak Hall Cap and Gown, Salem, Va., manufactures gowns for judicial, religious and academic clientele. In 2009 the company developed graduation caps and gowns of Repreve® polyester and nylon fibers made with pre- and post-consumer wastes, including recycled plastic bottles. Since then, popularity of the recycled graduation regalia has skyrocketed; in 2015 an estimated 300,000 students graduated wearing Oak Hall’s GreenWeaver® (100 percent post-consumer recycled content) or NuHorizon® (some post-consumer recycled content) caps and gowns.
Repreve fibers made by Unifi Inc., Greensboro, N.C., are spun into yarns for fabric production and are incorporated into everything from hosiery to automotive interiors. Fabrics made from Repreve are soft to the touch, wrinkle-resistant and lightweight, providing both eco-friendliness and comfort. The GreenWeaver gowns live on after matriculation; they can be recycled back into Repreve after
the graduation parties are over.