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Taymee Brandon

Purdue University, PhD Environmental Engineering

EREF Scholar 2023

Project Title: Closing the loop on the textile industry with textile waste-derived biochar modified with cationic surfactant for heavy metal recovery from industrial wastewater

Recent estimates from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) indicate that in the U.S., 17.0 million tons of textiles are generated annually, and a substantial 66% of those are sent to municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. These textiles are deposited in a system which emits climate changing gases and requires long-term monitoring and control of water (leachate) emissions, leading to a break in the circular economy and an opportunity for resource generation. The purpose of Brandon’s dissertation work is to deter and alleviate environmental contamination by re-imaging waste as a resource with textiles intended for the landfill being chemically converted into the novel and adsorbent “biochar”, and aqueous heavy metals destined for disposal being selectively remediated and recovered to be reintroduced into the industrial process. Overall, this project will apply circular economy concepts to increase economic value and decrease environmental impacts of several major material streams, and to increase the circularity of water use in anthropogenic systems. The main objective is to produce textile waste-derived biochar modified with cationic surfactant, and then investigate its efficacy in recovering aqueous anions from industrial wastewater. The potential of creating a regenerative adsorptive surface will be a significant breakthrough, since conventional non-regenerable adsorption techniques require substantial management, disposal, and transport of the solid waste. The framework of the results will apply directly to the tannery wastewater industry that is laden with hexavalent chromium, but the textile waste-based biochar can be applied broadly to other industries that experience similar challenges, such as industrial process streams containing arsenic. Brandon’s research will help enable a paradigm shift as related to material flows in multiple industries: textile waste and industrially relevant but environmentally toxic metals.


Taymee Brandon is an Ojibwe woman from Havre, Montana near the Ahsiniiwin (Rocky Boy) Chippewa Cree Reservation, and a member of the Mikinaakwajiw-ininiwag (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) community in Belcourt, North Dakota. She is currently a PhD Candidate in Environmental Engineering and Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow at Purdue University. Taymee started at Purdue in August 2019 as a Purdue Doctoral Fellow, a Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership Scholar, and a Gates Millennium Graduate Scholar. She previously graduated from Montana Technological University in May 2019 with an Environmental Engineering, M.S., and received her Chemistry, B.S. from the University of Montana in May 2016. Her primary focus has been circular economy, sustainability, and water quality research in analytical chemistry and environmental engineering capacities.