Every year, Americans throw away more than 35 billion plastic bottles. These discarded plastic bottles eventually end up in our landfills, rivers, and oceans, where they take hundreds of years to decompose.
As a consumer, your choices matter. In addition to using less single-use plastics, you can lead a more eco-friendly life by wearing clothes made from sustainable, plant-based, and recycled fibers such as organic cotton, linen, and hemp.
30A-brand apparel is made using a 50-50 blend of Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton and REPREVE recycled polyester.
In addition to being eco-friendly, 30A shirts are incredibly soft, long-lasting, and usually feature fun, beachy designs.
Since launching their recycled apparel line in 2016, 30A has recycled more than 6 million plastic bottles.
Here’s how the process works:
Plastic bottles diverted from U.S. landfills are sorted, washed, and chopped into flakes at Unifi’s REPREVE Recycling Center. The clean flakes are then blended, melted, and turned into recycled chips. The chips are loaded into silos, each holding the equivalent of 27 million plastic bottles, before being sent through an extrusion and texturing process where they’re turned into fibers with performance properties like wicking and odor control. Through this process, REPREVE has recycled more than 25 billion plastic bottles so far.
The REPREVE recycled fiber is sent to a knitting mill in Guatemala, where it’s blended with cotton to make a new super-soft fabric. 30A’s Megan Lyons visited Guatemala in 2019 to see the knitting mill and sewing facility in person. She was impressed by their open-door policy. “It’s rare in the apparel industry to be able to go to a facility and get a full tour,” Lyons said. “They’re genuinely transparent there, and they treat all of their employees really well.”
The knit fabric is sent to a nearby facility where it is inspected before being dyed, cut, and sewn into t-shirts, tank tops, joggers, hoodies, and more. During her visit, Lyons was particularly impressed by the quality control at the sewing facility. “They have people there with lights checking every single inch of fabric, and if there’s a mistake, they fix it immediately,” she said. “The quality control at the facility is intense and intentional.”
The blank garments are then sent to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they’re printed with various designs using water-based inks, a far more environmentally friendly choice than traditional screen printing. “Traditional screen printing uses plastisol inks, which are oil-based,” said JoAnn Ribaudo, 30A’s Chief Revenue Officer. Ribaudo has nearly 40 years of apparel industry experience. “We chose water-based inks because they’re eco-friendly and don’t pollute the water.” In addition to using water-based inks, 30A uses direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, which results in a softer feel. “It’s different from traditional screen printing, where you can usually feel that ink sitting on top of the t-shirt,” said Lyons. “DTG is direct to the actual apparel, so it feels just like the t-shirt. We are a beach brand, so we wanted something you would feel comfortable wearing all day long.”