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Cornell scientists develop machine to end textile waste
21
Apr '17
Courtesy: Cornell
Courtesy: Cornell
With an aim to tackle the post consumer waste, scientists from the Cornell University have developed a fabric-shredding machine, which takes old garments, not usable or suitable for resale, and turns them into a fibrous mass. This mass then can be turned into something which can be used or reused by the apparel industry and made into new consumer products.
 
The multidisciplinary Cornell design and research team has been working to find out zero-waste solution for the textile industry. It is important since an average American goes through roughly 70 pounds of clothing each year, creating approximately 21 billion pounds of clothing sent to landfills - five per cent of all landfill waste, according to the Council for Textile Recycling.
 
The team included students from fibre science and apparel design, design and environmental analysis, physics, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and materials science and engineering.
 
"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 fibre science and apparel design in the College of Human Ecology.
 
The Fiberizer v.2, official name of the product, has been built from the original proof-of-concept project Fiberizer v.1, which was funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. To fund the v.2, Lewis secured a Walmart Foundation US Manufacturing Innovation Fund grant.
 
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, a report in the Cornell Chronicle said.
 
"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. 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 said. 
 
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 fibre 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."
 
Through design and creation, and development and enhancement of the machine, the team has been working to explore issues, come up with new ideas and identified the potential for a closed-loop supply chain that supports new product manufacturing, enables additional revenue streams from reclaimed apparel, and tackles the environmental problem of post-consumer textile waste.
 
"Through modification and refinements in its design, we can use different cutting blades for different fabrics, because we're finding it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. We want to know, if the mass material comes out a certain way, what is the perfect application for that particular fiber quality grade of material?" Lewis said. 
 
From creating products for the home, garments and art to horticultural applications for growing and nurturing plants indoors, uses for the fibrous materials created by the Fiberizer have proven extensive. (SV)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India


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