This year almost 30,000 Australian university students will graduate in gowns made from recycled plastic bottles.
Six Australian universities are using the gowns since they became available last December.
Hank Thierry, general manager graduations for Reed Graduation Services Pty, based in the Melbourne suburb of Keysborough, said the gowns are made in China from post-consumer waste, mainly PET bottles.
Thierry said each gown contains the equivalent of 28 recycled bottles. Thierry said the technology was developed in the United States and he travelled there to establish a supply chain and then arranged for the gowns to be manufactured in China.
Reed established its own brand, Envirograd, under which it markets the gowns to universities and other higher-education campuses.
Thierry said Envirograd gowns were more expensive, but “a sustainable option” for universities.
“The regalia market is very competitive. Price-wise there are a lot of cheaper gowns flooding the market, but some are of dubious origins.”
Thierry said he went to China to ensure the factory manufacturing Envirograd gowns did not use child labor and met other “ethical standards.”
The University of Queensland (UQ), in Brisbane, staged 10 graduation ceremonies in July in which the 3,000 grads wore recycled plastic gowns.
UQ student progression manager Athol Reid said Envirograd gowns were selected in a tender process. “There is no drop in quality compared with other synthetic gowns,” he said. “These gowns offer an excellent fit, are lighter in weight and probably better for a hot Queensland summer than any other good polyester.”