Corporate Director of Environmental Affairs Mount Vernon Mills
The mood to purchase "Made in the U.S.A" seems to be returning
Ron Beegle from Mount Vernon Mills presents the current status of sustainability in the textile industry of USA in an exclusive interview with Fibre2Fashion correspondent Mary Christine Joy.
Mount Vernon Mills, Inc. is headquartered in Mauldin, South Carolina, USA. It employs about 2,700 employees and has 13 production facilities in the USA. Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. heads the group. The company has remained an ardent promoter of sustainability in the textile industry.
Ronald (Ron) J. Beegle is the corporate director of environmental affairs for Mount Vernon Mills, Inc. He has held the position for nearly 25 years. In addition to his role at Mount Vernon Mills, Ron has held various leadership positions in the industry. Ron graduated from University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering.
Mount Vernon Mills has an interesting history to boast about. Can you say something about the origin and history of Mount Vernon Mills?
We have a very detailed and interesting account of our history on our website at mvmills.com. Mount Vernon started in the Baltimore area making cloth for tents and ship sails in the 1800s. The Trion, Georgia, leg of our family tree, unaffiliated with Mount Vernon at the time, started about 14 years before the Civil War. The Trion mill supplied the Confederate Army, but was not burned by General Sherman (there are numerous stories behind the reason why). It did, however, burn in 1875. It was rebuilt that year and enjoyed expansion into the early 20th century when it was bought by B. D. Riegel in 1912.
The Mount Vernon side also has a storied Civil War past to some extent, having acquired a mill in Tallassee, Alabama in the early 1900's that actually manufactured rifles for the Confederate Army under its previous ownership. The 1875 Trion structure and the original Tallassee structure still stand today.
Riegel Textile Corporation was subsequently bought by the R. B. Pamplin family, owners of Mount Vernon Mills, in 1985. Trion, GA, is home to the Apparel Fabrics Group, the largest of all Mount Vernon Mills groups, which primarily encompasses denim and piece-dyed fabrics, including flame resistant fabrics. It boasts a fully integrated denim mill, as well as piece dyeing and finishing plants, so that Mount Vernon Mills is able to control the fabric all the way from fiber to finish.
We understand that sustainability is an important concept for Mount Vernon Mills. Can you elaborate on some of the steps taken with regards to sustainability by the company?
Since 1999, we have received recognition and awards for our eco-friendly initiatives from organizations such as Air and Waste Management Association (AWWA) (1999 Certificate of Achievement), South Carolina Environmental Excellence Program, Georgia Pollution Prevention Partners Program (Model Level Certification), and the Governor of Georgia (1999 Honorable Mention, and 2001 Winner of the Governor's Award for Pollution Prevention in the Large Industry Category). However, it was the results of our conservation efforts to reduce water usage and regulated chemicals usage during the 1990's, and our recycling, that led up to these awards.
At the time "environment" was starting to become a household word in the late 1980's and after I came to Mount Vernon in 1989, we began to look at reducing our "exposure" by eliminating regulated substances from our manufacturing chemistry, plus minimizing our usage of our natural resources, such as water, to the best extent possible. We took the initiative to go beyond the minimum regarding the elimination of certain regulated substances early on, and this paid substantial dividends down the road. In the mid-90's when the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards from the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required costly controls on industry on many of these same substances, we had already eliminated them. As a result, we have no facilities that are "major sources" for hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
Mount Vernon had been recycling fiber and other solid wastes for decades, but after the local landfill closed in 1994 and it became significantly more expensive to transport solid waste out of the county, we set our sights on reducing the remaining landfill stream by half before the end of the decade (5 years out), and actually ended up reducing it by 65% by 1999. Over the years since then, we have reduced our landfill waste stream by an additional 26%. Today, over 92% of our solid waste is recycled or reused in some manner.
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