Sustainability in Textiles: Notes from the High Point Market

Sustainability in Textiles: Notes from the High Point Market
Eddie Ingle
Eddie Ingle is the CEO of Unifi, headquarted
in Winston-Salem. Unifi produces REPREVE,
100% recycled fabric. Ingle presented at
Monday’s webinar for High Point Market.

On Monday October 19, Unifi CEO Eddie Ingle led a High Point Market webinar entitled “Sustainability in Textiles.” The North Carolina-based company produces REPREVE, a polyester fabric made of 100% recycled plastic.

“Sustainability is no longer a request. It’s a demand,” Ingle stated.

Quality and sustainability are priorities for today’s consumer. Unifi wants to be part of the solution, and REPREVE exemplifies a sustainable closed-loop system. Made from recyclable material, the fabric is also recyclable itself.

How Unifi Creates Sustainable Polyester

“Not all plastics are alike,” Ingle said on Monday’s “Sustainability in Textiles” webinar. PET, the type of plastic used for water bottles and soft drinks, is 100% recyclable.

But how does plastic become fabric? First, the bottles collected from oceans or recycling bins are chopped up into flakes. Those flakes are turned into chips, melted into resin, then turned into yarn. Next, the yarn becomes polyester fabric that is every bit as durable virgin polyester (made from all-new material). Many apparel and furniture companies use the fabric in their products.

Aspects for Furniture Makers to Consider

Sustainability is “for the good of tomorrow,” Ingle emphasized. But there is also a pragmatic reason that furniture makers should make sustainability a priority: It’s important to consumers.

In a 2018 study, 92% of respondents said they would buy “environmentally safe home furnishings if style and cost considerations were comparable.”

Ingle noted that spending on home furnishings is on the rise due to remote work and school. And the furniture shopping happens online where it is easier for customers to research—and to notice sustainability credentials.

Lane Home Furnishings uses REPREVE fabric in their mattresses. Image courtesy of Lane Home Furnishings/Unifi Marketing.

Sustainability is about more than fabric. It extends to other materials such as the frame, foam and filling. It also includes the manufacturing process, and whether the furniture can be dismantled and recycled again.

Ingle cited the EPA‘s statistic that Americans throw away over 12 million tons of furniture per year. Image courtesy of Dan Meyers on Unsplash.

Moreover, if all this sounds overwhelming, the good news is that other people are thinking about this too. Learn more from resources such as the Office of Sustainability at Duke University.

For more about High Point’s furniture industry, read “‘Not Just a Pretty Space’: Interior Design Advice from the Pros at This Year’s High Point Market.” For more about the furniture outlook in North Carolina, check out our furniture tag.