January 25, 2016

Cornell to Receive $150K Grant From Walmart

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Cornell will receive approximately $150,000 through a U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund grant this year, the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors announced Monday.

The grant, which was awarded to Cornell for its “no-waste apparel design and production process that utilizes post-consumer textile waste,” is part of $2.84 million that five universities will collectively receive in 2016 for their work in domestic manufacturing development that involves creating new technologies and working to decrease domestic production costs, according to a Walmart press release.

“Through these grants we hope to help remove the barriers to revitalizing and growing U.S. apparel manufacturing, while creating more sustainable production processes,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “The U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s broader commitment to foster new economic growth and opportunity and create stronger communities.”

Prof. Tasha Lewis, fiber science and apparel design, and Prof. Anil Netravali, fiber science and apparel design, are the co-recipients of the grant and were awarded for their proposed strategy that would reduce energy and water needs in textile production as well as create additional revenue through reclaimed apparel, according to the University.

“Our project aims to reduce the consumption of natural resources to create virgin textiles,” Lewis said. “We’re also trying to divert used and unwanted clothing away from landfills – all the while putting textiles to better use as a raw material.”

Lewis added that the Fiberizer — a fabric-shredding machine that she and Netravali developed through funding from Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future — was a key part of their U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund grant. The Fiberizer works by transforming textile waste to become usable to manufacture other products. With the $150,000 grant, Lewis and Netravali will work to develop an “industrial-grade” Fiberizer.

Cornell’s awardment of the grant was announced at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, who attended the conference, supported Cornell for the bid, arguing that Lewis and Netravali had worked closely with local organizations involved with recycling textiles.

“While the project has local implications, it also relates to … the larger apparel manufacturing sector … in New York,” Myrick said. “This engagement aligns with the core land-grant mission of Cornell University and is a perfect representation of how the research activity on campus can serve the immediate needs of the community.”

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