Despite a desire for greener and more sustainable apparel, U.S. consumers continue to discard about 70 pounds of clothing each year on average. For Tasha Lewis, Ph.D., that’s far too much.
In response, Lewis, an associate professor in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design at Cornell Univerity, and her colleague, Professor Anil Netravali, Ph.D., have developed a machine aimed at giving old textiles new life. It’s called the “Fiberizer,” and is designed to deconstruct woven or knit fabrics so the fibers can be used in new applications such as material for car interiors, insulation and stuffing as well as being constructed into shades for lighting.
The initial version of the Fiberizer was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency as well as Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Version two found support from the Walmart Foundation’s U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund while “phase two research” is being done in partnership with Eileen Fisher’s Renew program.
Lewis told WWD the goal is to create a “closed-loop system” that “transforms post-consumer textile waste into new products.” She noted that fast fashion is not sustainable, and while the industry makes commitments to be greener, more needs to be done to divert textile waste from landfills. Lewis also said the second phase of her research involves “designing apparel with disassembly in mind.
Lewis is well-published, and her research focuses on the “disruptive impact of technology in the apparel industry” as well as “the behavior of fashion brands” and global and domestic apparel production issues — in particular those issues surrounding “glocalization.”
With the Fiberizer, Lewis sees a lot of potential in the market. “If we scale this up, can it be a form of manufacturing?” Lewis said. “We have to think about using [used] textiles to make new products such as home goods, accessories. And not necessarily apparel, but also reimagining where else we can make textiles a part of our life.”