With 11-hundred employees, Unifi is not only one of Yadkin county's largest employers it is also one of the largest area textile plants still in operation, and part of this company's "large" success is thanks to this "small" plastic chip and the product it ultimately makes.
"Repreve means second chance so certainly we are trying to give our waste a second chance."
Roger Berrier is Unifi's vice president and over the past two years the company's executives have worked to figure out a way to use discarded water bottles, and the waste they create while making traditional polyester.
"This is where waste is created."
The plant's fiber waste was once sold off for lower end use like stuffing, but not anymore.
"We send it off to our recycling center along with collection of plastic bottles...those materials are filtered and remelted and made into polyester chips."
And those Polyester chips are shipped back to Yadkinville by the truck loads...and the process of making 100 percent recycled yarn then starts in these storage tanks...on top of the plant.
"The big ones hold a million smaller ones half a million."
Plant manager Kaye Flippin knows the process like the back of her hand. After inside....the chips are dried.
"This acts like each individual chip like outside of M and M...it keeps the moisture out and seals the outside."
Then they are sent to another machine for melting in these tanks that can reach temperatures over 500 degrees to melt them, then that hot polyester material is pushed through what's called the spinnerette. At nearly 500 degrees, it's pumped out into tiny strands and within seconds, the liquid cools to 70 degrees and solidifies into thread.
From the spinnerettes based on the thread count needed, the tiny fibers are woven together to create a finished yarn, spun onto spools in the plant's bottom floor. Robots are responsible for categorizing and picking up finished tubes, then the robots transfer the tubes to be texturized.
"This is basically the end of the process the tubes are getting ready for packaging...on any given day roughly 600 tubes of the recycled yarn comes through here."
"We say that one pound of recycled yarn saves the equivalent of half a gallon of gasoline and that one pound of yarn is utilizing 4 plastic bottles."
What was once plant waste and water bottles....ends up on store shelves across the country as fleece vests, blankets even t-shirts.
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