Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Graduation Attire Made of Recycled Plastic Bottles

ivy-cuttingFor the 2011 graduating class, commencement is beginning to appear on the horizon. With just a quarter and a half to go, it is almost time to start preparing for the big event. Amidst all of the anticipation surrounding this milestone, here’s some news that will make you even more excited about graduating: participating in this year’s commencement will help save the planet.

That’s right – all caps and gowns worn by this year’s graduating class will be made from 100% post-consumer recycled bottles. An average of twenty-three plastic bottles will go into the making of each cap and gown.

The graduation attire, called GreenWeaver, was introduced in 2009. By March 2010, 3.5 million plastic bottles had been reclaimed from landfills for use in GreenWeaver regalia. Manufacturing fabric from plastic reduces CO2 gas emissions by 55% compared to manufacturing fabric from virgin polyester. You can even turn your cap and gown back in to be recycled again!

This is a great example of the possibilities of upcycling – the process of converting waste materials into useful new products. Only a portion of the plastic that gets recycled is turned into new materials and products that are of better quality and greater value than before. The rest is downcycled, meaning it is recycled into materials and products of lesser value.

On top of this, only 2-3% of plastic even gets recycled at all. The rest goes into landfills or ends up in ouroceans. This is not only a problem for our environment, but for vulnerable communities, as Van Jones points out in his talk on the economic injustice of plastic. When recycled, these materials can be reused to produce clothing, carpet, synthetic lumber, new containers and bottles, and more.

As we get ready to don our recycled regalia, let it serve as a reminder that we can all do our part. It can be as easy as making an effort to limit our use of plastics, recycle the plastic items we do use, and look for opportunities to purchase items made of recycled material.

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