Recyclables are keeping you toasty this winter

From water bottles to warm coats, one NC company is growing their footprint by shrinking ours.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When you bundle up for the last few days of cool N.C. weather, you might not know that your favorite jacket may have once been a bale of plastic water bottles.N.C. yarn maker Inifi, Inc. has seen their profits and footprint take off in central N.C. over the past three years. They are committed to putting a green philosophy in real world, market-driven action. The company has invested more than $130 million in plant expansions in Reidsville and Yadkinville to meet the growing domestic and global demands for high-performance apparel that contain its Repreve yarn fibers made of recycled material.Introduced in 2007, Repreve is made out of plastic bottles and other polyester waste. The brand was part of Unifi’s move from producing commodity yarns to making high-tech performance fibers, helping them survive tough times for the textile industry.Repreve fibers are now found in brands including Patagonia, Fossil, The North Face and Haggar. They are even part of the seat covers in Ford’s Fusion hybrid car and F-150 truck. The company sees a growing demand for the high-tech recycled fiber.”Only 32 percent of plastic bottles are recycled in the United States, which is a statistic Unifi is working diligently to change,” said Jay Hertwig, vice president of global brand sales, marketing and product development for Unifi.In September, Unifi opened a $28 million bottle processing center at its Reidsville plant, with 87 new jobs where plastic water and soda bottles are cleaned, sorted, delabeled and chopped into plastic flakes. The small flakes are sent to Unifi’s recycling center in Yadkinville, where they are further chopped, melted, reformulated and textured into yarns.According to the company, since Repreve was introduced, Unifi has transformed more than 5 billion plastic bottles into high-tech fiber.In February, World Textile Awards announced Unifi as its 2016 Fiber Producer of the Year.”We’re proud to be recognized as a leader in the textile industry,” said Tom Caudle, president of Unifi. “Through our dedication to developing innovative products that combine environmental responsibility, style and performance, we continue to accommodate the trends of our ever-changing field.”As part of the Reidsville project, Unifi received a $500,000 state grant, with the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. helping coordinate that grant. Unifi received a $190,000 state grant to support its 47,000-square-foot addition to the plant in Yadkinville.