Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability to offer vital landfill training globally
The University of Texas at Arlington has established the Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability to provide leadership and expertise to countries and cities around the globe in how to make waste management and landfills more efficient and sustainable.
In addition, the center will share research with charter and member cities in Texas to better manage their landfills into the next century.
Sahadat Hossain, a UT Arlington civil engineering professor, will serve as director of the institute. The center stems from Hossain’s extensive work in the area of waste management and bioreactor landfill technology and research that his team has conducted in cooperation with the city of Denton and Ghana, Africa
In Denton, Hossain and his colleague Melanie Sattler, an associate professor of civil engineering, developed and implemented an extensive sensor system designed to boost methane production in landfills as an alternative energy source. The Denton landfill system generates enough methane gas to power 3,000 homes.
A plan was developed to boost methane production in Ghana but the team is still seeking funding for implementation.
The team’s work is representative of the high-impact research UT Arlington faculty and students are contributing in alignment with UT Arlington’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact and has attracted the attention of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Hossain said. See a video about the center here.
“Our mission on the worldwide front would be one of training and education,” Hossain said. “You have some countries that don’t even know what a landfill is. They just dump their solid waste in open space or water streams. That spreads disease and creates serious public health concerns. In those countries, people living next to the open dumps are often making the decision of whether to buy medicine or eat.
“We want to solve the problem of why they’re getting sick in the first place by having an engineered landfill that’s managed and sustainable, and along the process contain the possible source of disease.”
Hossain said the center was selected to host a worldwide training session in collaboration with the Austria-based International Solid Waste Association conference in January 2016. The ISWA is a global waste management network with more than 100,000 waste management professionals. The independent non-profit association works in the public interest to promote and develop sustainable waste management. Participants from more than 25 countries are expected to attend the training to be held at UT Arlington and City of Denton. Previous training programs were in Austria, Malaysia and Romania.
Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said the global implications for the center are substantial.
“Transferring the research finding related to landfill sustainability to population centers around the world that are in need of it contributes to sustainability and health of our planet,” Behbehani said. “The work that Drs. Hossain and Sattler are doing represents real solutions for a significant need. Cities and countries around the world will be looking for such solutions..”
The center will be housed in the Civil Engineering Lab Building, but the city of Denton has agreed to give the center 10,000 square feet of building space at its landfill for research projects and training. Training also will be conducted at the UT Arlington Research Institute in Fort Worth. Hossain is working to secure participation from additional municipal members.
The Center’s advisory board includes prominent experts in the field of solid waste management and civil engineering, including: David Newman, International Solid Waste Association president, Vienna, Austria; John Skinner, Solid Waste Association of North America chief executive officer; Craig Benson, University of Wisconsin professor and National Academy of Engineering member; Morton Barlaz, professor and chair of the North Carolina State University Civil Engineering Department; Mazhar Islam, business professor at Drexel University; Thomas Frankiewicz, EPA program manager; and Vance Kemler, solid waste general manager for the city of Denton.
Other board members include representatives from Corpus Christi, Irving, Brazil, Serbia, Ghana, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, the United Kingdom and Portugal.
Hossain said many developed and developing countries are realizing the benefits of landfill management as an alternative energy source.
“We have to get people to understand that solid waste management is not a liability but an asset,” Hossain said. “It can mean supplementing electricity generation in more progressive countries and cities. It can mean providing electricity in less developed countries where there is no electricity now.”
Moreover, sustainable waste management means better sanitation for the residents living near waste management facilities. The ultimate mission of the center is to work on developing healthy, sustainable urban cities.
About UT Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 50,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.