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Duke and UNC Adopt Caps and Gowns Made Out of Recycled Plastic Bottles

Good news: A new fabric called GreenWeaver, spun from molten plastic pellets, is being used for the graduation gear by a growing list of schools.

Need another good reason to recycle your plastic bottles? They might end up as part of someone's graduation cap and gown outfit. The Virginia-based company Oak Hall Cap & Gown has long produced graduation gear, but in 2008, after realizing that schools are trying to become more environmentally responsible, it began developing a fabric called GreenWeaver that's spun from molten plastic pellets. Each gown uses an average of 23 post-consumer plastic bottles—even the bags the gowns come in are made out of recycled plastic.

According to GreenWeaver's Facebook page, five percent of colleges currently purchase the environmentally conscious caps and gowns. That translates into "310,000 graduates who have worn GreenWeaver resulting in 7,130,000 plastic bottles being removed from landfills."

Florida International University Provost Douglas Wartzok told the Miami Herald that deciding to get the GreenWeaver gowns is "an innovative way to show our commitment to sustainability and make an impact given the size of our graduating classes." Gowns for FIU's 4,500 students will use more than 103,000 recycled plastic bottles.

Fashion designer Alexander Julian also teamed up with Oak Hall this year to create a "true Carolina blue" gown for his alma mater, the University of North Carolina's May commencement. UNC officials said that the time is right for recycled gowns since students only wear them once. And, not to be outdone by their rivals, Duke University is also using GreenWeaver's gowns this year.

GreenWeaver's goal for 2011 is to reclaim 7 million more plastic bottles from landfills and use them in their gowns.

photo via GreenWeaver Facebook page

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