By Kayla Cobb

CLEMSON — Clemson University students who will receive degrees May 10 were able to buy caps and gowns made of recycled plastic bottles.

Not only are they almost indistinguishable from the traditional caps and gowns, they are manufactured in the U.S. and can be recycled after graduation. There will be recycling bins at the on-campus Barnes and Noble bookstore, which partnered with the Division of Student Affairs to offer the “green” caps and gowns.

The recycled versions cost $3 more than traditional caps and gowns. The extra goes to a Clemson sustainability fund to promote other environmentally friendly projects. The manufacturer, Oak Hall Cap and Gown, has agreed to donate an additional 25 cents to the fund for each cap and gown sold.

“We decided that giving the students a choice would be a clear way of demonstrating where our students’ values are, and I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Steve Robbins, associate vice president of Student Affairs.

Of 2,071 caps and gowns sold, 1,763 were the recycled GreenWeaver products. With 85 percent of the graduating seniors choosing the recycled versions, more than $5,000 will be contributed by students to the sustainability fund and more than 40,500 plastic bottles were recycled, according to Robbins.

“Giving the students a choice from the beginning is a unique approach to going green,” Robbins said.

The manufacturing process uses about 23 recycled plastic bottles per cap and gown. The bottles were processed to remove impurities, chopped into flakes and melted and solidified to form a uniform pellet. These pellets are melted again to form a filament yarn that is woven into the fabric that is used to make the gowns.

A sample recycled cap and gown is on display at the Clemson University Bookstore in the Hendrix Student Center.

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