Renew Merchandise is doing more than encouraging people to wear their school spirit on their sleeves; it’s allowing them to help save the planet while cheering on their favorite teams.
The Virginia-based apparel company has become a leading manufacturer of fibers made from recycled plastics. The RPET (Recycled PET) plastic fibers are made from post-consumer PET plastic bottles that could have otherwise ended up in landfills. Each load of plastic is assigned a lot and batch number then turned into fibers. The fibers are then used to make custom merchandise for organizations, sports teams and more — and the lot numbers ensure that the customers are getting their own recycled products back.
Renew has contracted with major events and organizations to create sustainability programs that allow them to turn waste into wardrobes. Programs have included events such as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 London Olympics.
Plastic waste collected for recycling at these large events not only keeps tons of plastic out of landfills but also provides materials for Renew to create merchandise. For example, tennis cans from the 2011 U.S. Open were recycled to make T-shirts and lanyards for the 2012 U.S. Open, and teams including the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds rely upon Renew to provide RPET uniforms for their stadium and front office staff members. And Renew recently inked a deal with Tulane University, which next spring will start selling school spirit–themed merchandise made from bottles collected on its campus.
The company kept about 1.3 million bottles from clogging landfills in 2013. Compared to the more than 5 billion pounds of plastic tossed in the trash every year, that may not seem like much — but it shows promise as to where the market is headed.