REIDSVILLE — Unifi, Inc. (NYSE: UFI) can now produce its post-consumer recycled PET plastic flake for use in the manufacturing of food-contact articles, after receiving its Letter of No Objection (LNO) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Last September, Unifi celebrated the official opening of its REPREVE Bottle Processing Center in North Carolina, where the company’s recycled plastic flake is produced. The REPREVE Bottle Processing Center is one of the most advanced recycling facilities of its kind in the United States, utilizing state-of-the-art technology for sorting and cleaning recycled bottles.
The REPREVE Bottle Processing Center represents a more than $28 million investment in the vertical integration of Unifi’s REPREVE recycled product line, and a commitment to new environmentally conscious production capabilities and channels of revenue; Unifi’s high-quality recycled plastic flake can now be used for food-grade packaging such as clamshells, trays and baskets for fresh fruits, vegetables and shell eggs.
Unifi’s REPREVE Bottle Processing Center has the annual capacity to produce 75 million pounds of the highest quality, consistent, clean bottle flake, and helps conserve natural resources by reducing the use of crude oil to produce virgin plastic for non-recycled packaging.
“We are pleased to expand our end uses for REPREVE bottle flake to include food-grade products,” said Eddie Ingle, vice president of supply chain and REPREVE polymer sales for Unifi. “The REPREVE Bottle Processing Center uses custom-designed, cutting-edge technology to produce recycled bottle flake for high-quality, safe, environmentally responsible food packaging.”
The process starts when individuals recycle. Unifi purchases baled PET bottles from materials recovery facilities across the eastern United States, and brings them to the REPREVE Bottle Processing Center, where undesirable materials are segregated and removed using multiple processes to ensure that only the proper, high-quality polyester bottles are kept for use. Unifi then removes labels, debris and caps from the remaining PET bottles. These bottles are chopped into flake, washed, dried and bagged for use in the production of Unifi’s recycled REPREVE fiber or chip; flake can also be sold for use in a variety of consumer packaging applications, such as thermoformed food-grade packaging, as well as non-food applications, for example, strapping and film.
Since inception, Unifi has recycled more than 5 billion plastic water bottles into REPREVE fiber, used by many well-known brands in a variety of auto, outdoor, home and apparel products, including Levi’s, Haggar, Ford and The North Face. Now, Unifi has the capability to increase the number of bottles the Company recycles, as it expands production to include food-grade packaging. To learn more about Unifi and REPREVE, visit booth 910 at Plastics Recycling 2017, March 6-8 in New Orleans.