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Bioreactor Simulator: Textiles &
Environmental Injustice

Boston College

The aim of this project is to illustrate how post-consumer textile waste has impacted individuals in developing countries from environmental justice and population health frameworks. To accomplish this, we investigated the effect of textile waste on the environment by characterizing chemical leachate and gas production from textile waste decomposition within a landfill bioreactor simulator we designed and built. To build the bioreactor, components were evaluated based on principles of ‘frugal innovation.’ Risk of leakage was tested by circulating water through the system with a dual water pump and testing internal pressure with an air pump. Many parameters of our experiment, such as temperature, pressure, humidity and gas concentrations are measured wirelessly using an Arduino microcontroller.

Whether you donate or throw away a piece of clothing, either way there is a very high chance that item of clothing will end-up in a landfill, and it’s also highly likely that that landfill won’t be close to your home! When this piece of clothing, then sits in this landfill it’s being broken down by microbes, and physical processes -just like an apple core sitting in a dumpster. Unlike the apple core though, there are likely plastics, chemicals, or even dangerous gases coming out of that textile while it degrades. These can have massive negative impacts on the environment and health of people near and far. Our project works to create a reliable way that anyone, across the globe, can study the breakdown of textiles, or other materials to make more educated decisions for addressing environmental and health risks.

By creating tools and means to frugally test the characteristics of waste and its degradation, our research design enables communities most impacted by textile waste generation, and students and others working to confront and address issues of environmental racism and health disparities to repeat experiments and generate data to advocate for health and environmental safety.


  • Julia DeVoy
  • Stephanie Querzoli
  • Akua Sarr
  • Mark Cooper
  • Sunand Bhattacharya
  • Evan Warns
  • Addie Metzger
  • Evelyn Kotch
  • Sophia Riordan
  • Dielle Lundberg