Cash prizes available for students who create sustainable solutions to linen waste

Joshua Mollel sitting at a sewing machine and sewing.
AMDT masters student Joshua Mollel sews discarded cloth into a new piece of apparel, as part of a waste transformation challenge.

To mitigate the environmental impacts of clothing and textile over-consumption and waste, Washington State University is hosting a design competition where students will create products made from hotel linen waste.

WSU’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT), along with WSU Extension and WSU’s School of Hospitality Business Management, launched the program with support from Pullman Marriott Hotels, which will fund prizes for student winners. First place receives $750, second place $500, and third place $350. This competition is part of a larger project, funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

“We want to increase awareness of sustainability related to textile waste and recycling,” said Hang Liu, AMDT associate professor. 

Hotels in the United States generated 1.5 million tons of linen waste in 2018, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Much of that waste is due to relatively small tears or stains in otherwise good towels, sheets, and pillowcases.

For the competition, students can use their product development skills, creativity, and sewing abilities to create original designs and products. Competition flyers show images of slippers, pet beds, hot pads, and more.

WSU students Joshua Mollel, Allie Weerts, Emily Libey, and Kiah Conway hold products they designed and made from hotel linens.

“I would love to see different products developed by students,” Liu said. “We want them to use their creativity to generate a wide range of useful products.”

Hotel linens are relatively easy to recycle for mass production, Liu said. The waste is often caused by small defects, the fiber content is fairly simple and of high quality, and the colors tend to be similar.

All entries are due by April 21, with winners to be announced May 3. More information and the entry form are available online.

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