Team develops machine with aim of ending textile waste

April 20, 2017 – 02:56 pm
From left, Emelie Camera ’17, Anil Netravali, the Jean & Douglas McLean Professor in Fiber Science & Apparel Design, Tasha Lewis, assistant professor of fiber science & apparel design, and Schuyler Duffy, graduate student, showcase the Fiberizer v.2 at the College of Human Ecology’s "A Second Life" exhibit in March. Credit: Cornell University

The average American goes through roughly 70 pounds of clothing each year, creating approximately 21 billion pounds of clothing sent to landfills – five percent of all landfill waste, according to the Council for Textile Recycling.

A multidisciplinary Cornell design and research team, assembled to tackle the environmental problem of post-consumer textile waste, has developed a unique fabric-shredding machine in hopes of a zero-waste solution for the textile industry.

"The Fiberizer project aims to put textiles, destined for the landfill, to better use as materials to create new textiles and other products, reducing the consumption of natural resources and diverting unwanted clothing away from becoming waste, " said Tasha Lewis, assistant professor of fiber science and apparel design in the College of Human Ecology.

The Fiberizer takes old garments, which may not be usable or suitable for resale, and turns them into a fibrous mass. The material generated can be turned into something of value the apparel industry can use or reuse, and allows new consumer products to be created.

"The industry today already has industrial-grade fabric cutters or shredders that do cut up mixed amounts of clothing that is not sellable or usable, " Lewis said. "Many in the industry simply throw it all in and chop it, mixing all kinds of materials together and turning it into what could become carpet padding, insulation in a car, or something similar."

Lewis explained that the Fiberizer was designed to allow users to take into consideration what a particular textile is made of, the value of the fiber content and how it is constructed, such as knit or woven material.

"This allows for a type of refurbished textile production from reclaimed apparel that can be used for new garments by the industry and create additional revenue streams for apparel, while at the same time reducing waste and promoting sustainability, " she said. "Because these items were originally designed as garments, tested, and used as a piece of clothing, we're trying to make that value still relevant for whatever we make out of it."


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