The extra capacity also is allowing the company to push deeper into providing high-quality recycled resin for consumer packaging, Ingle said.
But not just any consumer packaging. Unifi is not looking to market its recycled pellets for low-end applications, he said.
"We think that people who need a very high quality pellet or flake that's traceble, certified and recyclable from a publicly traded company will take advantage of that because big companies like to do business with big companies. And we do believe we're the right person to supply this product," Ingle said.
"The people who are getting into the recycling business just for costs, they are not our market. And we're not their supplier," Ingle said. "If you are just looking for cost, we're not the person."
Unifi has been increasing sales of its Repreve brand resin to external customers, and "that's part of the reason we invested in the new line," he said.
"What it allowed us to do is expand our feed going into our yarn business. It also allowed us to create an opportunity for us to sell resin into the consumer packaging market," Ingle said about the extrusion expansion. "We think the consumer packaging buyers are looking for a very high quality, traceable polyester chip or pellet."
While Ingle declined to reveal which companies Unifi is working with on the packaging side, he did indicate categories include both thermoformed packaging and bottles.
"We have the Repreve brand. We're trying to leverage work we've done on the yarn side around Repreve in the consumer packaging market also," Ingle said.
It was just in March that Unifi indicated the company received a letter of no objection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That allowed the company to start producing recycled PET flake for use in the manufacture of food-contact items.
Unifi decided to backwards integrate with construction of the bottle processing facility last year to improve the quality of the flake supply used by the company.
"In the U.S. there's been a shortage of clean, clear flake of the quality that we need. We take this resin and we spin it. We're making very fine yarn. Any dirt or particulates in there can affect our performance.
"We need to have a better-quality product to improve our manufacturing performance," he said.
Unifi also seeks to impact the entire recycling market in the United States. "We want everybody to know a bottle is not a thing to throw away. It's something to be celebrated and rebirthed," he said.
"We think that it's pretty sad the recycling rate [for postconsumer plastic bottles] in the U.S. is 31 percent. We think that by doing what we're doing and investing in the physical infrastructure, hopefully that will help move the needle from 31 to 32, to 33. We're not just trying to sell our brand Repreve. We're trying to help the country understand the impact of recycling and that bottles can be reborn," Ingle said.
Unifi has now recycled more than 5 billion plastic water bottles.