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American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series – Unifi, Inc.

North Carolina-based Unifi Inc., a global producer of synthetic and recycled performance fibers, has been a leader in the industry—not only through its corporate culture and REPREVE® recycled performance fibers, which have touched every corner of the apparel supply chain, but also through campaigns and collaborations with organizations to raise awareness of the corporate stewardship aimed at mitigating the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment.

The company’s recycling efforts have been driven and widely adopted by the entire apparel supply chain.

Unifi’s REPREVE brand, launched in 2007, has transformed more than 19 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new clothing, shoes, home goods and other consumer products made by leading brands. The company is on track to hit its goal of 20 billion plastic bottles in 2020.

Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing

The brand uses 45% less energy, 20% less water, and has reduced greenhouse gases by 30% versus virgin polyester production, according to Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing. The company’s total recycling of 20 billion bottles will offset the use of petroleum needed to produce virgin fiber, conserving 323.4 million gallons of water.

“REPREVE was born through a manufacturing excellence project where Unifi was trying to determine how we could be more efficient from an overall manufacturing standpoint. Even though we have a high production efficiency rate, we still produce waste,” Hertwig said. “We developed a product made from 100% waste in 2007.  Patagonia and Polartec started demand for Repreve as Patagonia was looking for fleece with recycled content.”

REPREVE has come a long way in just a decade. The number of customers using Unifi’s recycled fibers has grown significantly—from those two brands in 2007 to more than 700 brands globally, according to Hertwig.

Moreover, Unifi has invested heavily in recycling technologies and manufacturing—more than $150 million—over the past decade.

The company now operates its own recycling center in Yadkinville, N.C., which opened in 2010, as well as the REPREVE Bottle Processing Center, a $28 million investment, which opened in 2016.

“We continue to grow our REPREVE production year over year. It has become almost 40 percent of the total production at Unifi today.”

Asked whether Unifi could achieve 100 percent REPREVE production, Hertwig said “Once we started to see demand grow for REPREVE, our vision formed to one day run 100 percent recycled REPREVE production. It’s a lofty goal that comes with many challenges, but one we still strive to meet.”

“As we continue to invest in sustainable and recycling technologies, Unifi expects a larger portion of our production will be REPREVE-based in the future.”

 

Green Movement and Congressional Scrutiny

As consumer awareness, activism around pollution and calls for more eco-driven products continue to deepen, lawmakers are also increasing scrutiny of plastic pollution in particular and considering proposals to curb it. Some experts have warned that similar bills could be proposed to target microfiber pollution from petroleum-based materials such as polyester, acrylic and nylon.

Hertwig addressed some of the underlying concerns from a sustainability perspective within the context of the end-goal that Unifi is pursuing—curbing pollution through recycling, while creating more cost-savings and efficiencies.

“There are many opportunities for increasing recycling, especially in the United States, where the recycling rate is less than 30 percent. Recycling around the rest of the world is much higher,” Hertwig said.

“We are actively working with our customers and our stakeholders to explore potential impacts that microplastics and microfibers have on the environment. All the while, we remain dedicated to diverting billions of post-consumer plastic bottles, and textile waste, from oceans and landfills. We feel this is one of the most effective ways to mitigate plastic pollution, including microplastics, and to help to shift our economy from linear to circular,” Hertwig added.

As more attention is paid to microfiber pollution in synthetic clothing, companies are taking a closer look at solutions, investing in testing and exploring the effects of fiber shedding.

“We’re working with some brands that are doing research around microfiber pollution. It is a challenge to be overcome—to prevent loose fibers—but laundry equipment manufacturers offer some solutions in terms of removable filter systems,” Hertwig said. “The majority of our production is filament yarn, and if the yarn and fabric is processed in the right way, the fabric doesn’t shed.”

Unifi is on track to meet its goal of recycling 20 billion plastic bottles by 2020 using its REPREVE® technology.

 

Champions of Sustainability

Hertwig said Unifi’s REPREVE brand is expected to have another good year.

“We are definitely seeing more and more demand in various supply chains that we have around the world for REPREVE and recyclable material in general.”

Unifi launched its sustainability awards in 2017 to recognize brands, retailers and textile partners that are committed to sustainable sourcing.

Unifi announced the recipients of its Third Annual REPREVE Champions of Sustainability Awards on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The awards were given to 26 brand and retail partners that transformed 10 million or more recycled bottles and 42 textile partners that each transformed 50 million or more bottles through the use of REPREVE performance fibers.

Unifi recognized several companies, including H&M which recycled more than a half billion bottles and Walmart and Quicksilver, which reached the quarter billion bottle milestone.

“What we wanted to do with Champions of Sustainability is recognize brands, retailers and fabric suppliers, and highlight their efforts in producing eco-friendly sustainable material with REPREVE,” Hertwig said. “It generated such a level of interest in the supply chain, that many brands, retailers and mills contacted us to learn more about how to be recognized for using Repreve. As the sustainability movement started to grow within their organizations, they wanted to make sure they were getting credit. It has been a surprisingly successful program.”

At the end of the day, Hertwig said Unifi aims to create a higher level of awareness. The REPREVE tagline is “For the Good of Tomorrow.”

“Part of our goal is to create awareness and also educate as many customers and consumers about the importance of recycling through our different marketing campaigns and event appearances,” he said. “We’ve been doing that with our REPREVE national mobile tour, which is relaunching later this spring. It’s traveling across the United States to brands, retailers and different sporting events promoting the importance of recycling, while showing consumers how a bottle can become a pair of shoes, a jacket or automotive seat material.”

Unifi’s REPREVE® on display outside of their factory in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

The U.S. textile industry’s investment in sustainability and the “circular economy” comes at a pivotal time.

Consumer demand continues to grow for eco-friendly products, legislators and regulators are taking a hard look at environmental issues across manufacturing industries, and executives across a broad industry spectrum are making sustainability a pillar of their business models.

For years, domestic textile producers have been developing effective sustainable technologies, practices and products to address the myriad challenges associated with reducing manufacturing waste, water and energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions—moves that have helped curb environmental impact.

While there is ample anecdotal evidence showing that the steps textile companies are taking in the U.S is reducing waste, water and energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, no academic or scientific studies exist to date that measure either the impact in the U.S. in aggregate.

However, scores of U.S.-based textile producers, brands and retailers publicly highlight their sustainability goals, commitments, policies and products on their websites.

Most industry executives and experts cite the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as the best credible source for measuring global textile and apparel pollution. China, which has a poor environmental track record and relies largely on coal-based energy, is the number one supplier of apparel imported to the U.S.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the global supply chain is accountable for consuming 98 million tons of non-renewable resources—from the oil used in synthetic fibers to pesticides and fertilizer in cotton production. Globally, the textile industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, including cotton farming, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation study in 2017. In addition, the Circular Fibres initiative (a consortium of NGOs, philanthropists, brands, and cities cited in the MacArthur report) estimates the global textile industry generated 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Experts warn that all stakeholders both here and abroad will continue feeling the pressure to make greater progress in the years to come.

U.S. textile executives fully understand the drive for sustainability, which often yields benefits in the form of cost-savings and increased efficiencies, and many are at the forefront of the country’s recycling efforts, conservation efforts and advanced technology developments.

Against that backdrop, NCTO is launching a blog series on sustainability that will feature interviews with several textile executives and experts to highlight the industry’s progress, while also outlining challenges companies face in the quest to ultimately contribute to a cleaner environment.

 

 

 

NCTO Announces Kimberly Glas as Next President & CEO

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) is pleased to announce the appointment of Kimberly Glas as the organization’s new President & CEO, effective April 29th of this year.  Ms. Glas will succeed Augustine “Auggie” D. Tantillo, who previously announced his intention to step down from the same position at NCTO.

Current NCTO Chairman Marty Moran, CEO of Jefferson, Ga.-based Buhler Quality Yarns, noted that the selection follows a rigorous search process that led to her unanimous approval by NCTO Board of Directors. Ms. Glas brings over 20 years of experience in government policy development and advocacy. Her multi-faceted career includes spearheading manufacturing and trade policy efforts on Capitol Hill, serving as a key leader on behalf of the textile industry in the Obama administration, and most recently leading a non-profit organization working to advance critical policies to grow quality, U.S. jobs in the clean energy economy.

“We are fortunate, at this time of change and challenge to have Kim take the helm of this organization,” said Moran. “The U. S. textile industry is experiencing an exciting and dynamic period.  A new policy environment has evolved in Washington that places a greater emphasis on domestic manufacturing and Kim is an excellent choice to steer the industry through these new opportunities,” Moran added.  “NCTO has worked very closely with Kim over the years on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration.  Kim brings a strong combination of leadership skills, policy and advocacy know-how, and industry knowledge and has extensive experience working on manufacturing, trade, competitiveness, and sustainability issues.  We are thrilled she is taking on this important role at this time.”

“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to lead NCTO and to work on behalf of this innovative industry.  I am grateful to Auggie for his leadership and all his support and friendship over the years and am deeply appreciative to the NCTO membership for this incredible opportunity,” said Glas.  “I could not be more excited about taking on this role. I know how critical this industry is to so many across the United States and the value it represents. I am thrilled to be able to work on its behalf to advance its priorities.”

Ms. Glas most recently served as Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor and environmental organizations working to advance the creation of quality U.S. jobs in the clean energy economy. In this capacity, she worked closely with labor, environmentalists and U.S. industry at the intersection of energy, the environment and trade to advance common-sense policy solutions in order to help achieve a stronger economy and a more sustainable future.

Prior to that, from 2009 to 2014, Ms. Glas served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce under the Obama administration. In this capacity, Ms. Glas managed three offices of nearly 40 employees and oversaw programs and strategies to improve the domestic and international competitiveness of the U.S. textile and apparel industries. Ms. Glas worked closely with the United States Trade Representative, other key agencies, and Congress to advance a multitude of trade policy interests critical to the U.S. industry, including advancing fixes to the CAFTA-DR agreement to help maintain and grow the U.S. textile workforce.

Ms. Glas also brings extensive Capitol Hill experience, having worked for U.S. Representatives Michael Michaud of Maine and John J. LaFalce of New York.  Kim helped to initially organize, and then served as the key Congressional staffer for the House Trade Working Group, a key coalition of Members of Congress that works extensively on trade policy and domestic competitiveness issues to this day.

NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers, including artificial and synthetic filament and fiber producers.

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 550,500 in 2017.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $77.9 billion in 2017.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $28.6 billion in 2017.
  • Capital expenditures for textile and apparel production totaled $2.4 billion in 2016, the last year for which data is available.

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DOWNLOAD RELEASE

CONTACT: Rebecca Tantillo
(202) 822-8026
www.ncto.org

 

NCTO Announces Retirement of President & CEO Auggie Tantillo

WASHINGTON, DC –  Augustine “Auggie” D. Tantillo, President & CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations, has announced his intention to retire from his position later this year. Tantillo has enjoyed a 38-year, multifaceted career in the Washington policy arena, most of which involved direct representation of the U.S. textile industry.

NCTO Chairman Marty Moran stated, “Due to his vast institutional knowledge and skill in navigating policy matters in Washington, Auggie will certainly be missed. On behalf of our entire membership, I want to express our gratitude to Auggie for his dedicated and important service to our industry,” Moran added.

Tantillo stated, “It has been a tremendous privilege to represent an industry that has made such an enormous contribution to the U.S. economy and the U.S. workforce. I will always be grateful for the confidence that the domestic textile sector has shown in me as the head of this important organization.”

In the spring of last year, NCTO formed a search committee to undertake the process of selecting a replacement for Tantillo. After vetting numerous highly-qualified individuals and conducting a thorough interview process with leading candidates, the organization intends to make a public announcement on Tantillo’ s replacement in the coming weeks.

Tantillo has worked in government service or government relations in Washington, D.C. since 1981. Prior to joining NCTO, he served as Executive Director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, a trade association dedicated to furthering the interests of U.S. manufacturing, particularly with respect to textiles. At earlier points in his career, Tantillo was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles & Apparel at the U.S. Department of Commerce under President George H. W. Bush, and Chief of Staff to U. S. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Tantillo earned a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from Clemson University.

NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers, including artificial and synthetic filament and fiber producers.

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 550,500 in 2017.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $77.9 billion in 2017.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $28.6 billion in 2017.
  • Capital expenditures for textile and apparel production totaled $2.4 billion in 2016, the last year for which data is available.

# # #

DOWNLOAD RELEASE

CONTACT:  Rebecca Tantillo
(202) 822-8026
www.ncto.org