2024 Richard I. Stessel Waste Management Award

Richard I. Stessel (1956–2001) was a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida and an avid A&WMA enthusiast. He influenced A&WMA’s Technical Council to include greener, energy-efficient, and integrated engineering solutions in solid and hazardous waste management, using materials science and engineering together with industrial ecology, environmental, and subsurface engineering, along with geological science in innovative solid and hazardous waste management. His vision of the environmental engineering cycle always considered recyclable materials, resource recovery in the matrix of pollution abatement, remediation, restoration, and disposal. Established in 2012, the Richard I. Stessel Award is presented annually by the Association for outstanding achievement in the engineering and science of waste management excellence. The recipient of this award must demonstrate technical accomplishments considered to be major contributions in innovative strategies, treatment, recycling, reuse, or engineering/scientific excellence in the principles of resource recovery engineering and waste processing waste management.

A&WMA presents the 2024 Richard I. Stessel Waste Management Award to Chih C. Chao.

Dr. Chih C. Chao is a pioneer in developing and implementing innovative strategies and technologies to enhance material and energy efficiency, value-addition and collaboration leading to sustainable waste-to-resource management practices with the goal of minimizing waste generation and resource exploitation, maximizing resource efficiency, and facilitating a circular economy for the betterment of the environment and society. His work is recognized internationally and forms a basis for Republic of China -Taiwan Ministry of Environment’s policy development incorporating key strategic directions for promoting a circular economy.

For decades, Dr. Chao has advocated value-added recycling of waste to marketable materials and energy, providing policy advice and technical assistance to environmental agencies in various regions, such as those in Taiwan and China.  In particular, he assisted Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (now Ministry of Environment) to develop and implement Environmental Science & Technology Parks with successful recycling programs of e-waste, discarded vehicles, spent solvents, furnace slags, and various sludges and residues, which led to Taiwan EPA’s enactment of groundbreaking Resource Recycling and Reuse Act in 2013, establishing a solid foundation for a progressive regulatory framework shifting from waste management approach to resource management. 

During his tenure (1984-1993) with Ontario Waste Management Corporation (OWMC), Dr. Chao led a number of pioneering R&D projects aiming at minimizing the risk and impact associated with hazardous waste management. The cutting-edge research work was widely disseminated via conference presentations and project reports, and used for planning and implementing hazardous waste management systems in Ontario. OWMC also granted approvals to California and Ohio for use of the R&D results in their programs. From 1994 to 2006, Dr. Chao worked with Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan to lead a USD 7 million per year technology development program emphasizing cost-effective, advanced treatment technologies, providing resource recovery and cleaner production solutions and successfully used by Taiwan industries.  

Over the years, Dr. Chao has continued his exceptional leadership in transforming the waste management field towards sustainable practices. Dr. Chao has authored or presented close to 100 technical papers related to circular economy, zero waste, climate change mitigation, value-added recycling, eco-industrial networking, hazardous and laboratory waste management, photocatalytic oxidation, incineration, residue management, and alternative energy. From 2006 to 2012, he served as Professor and Associate Director of Sustainable Environmental Research Center of National Cheng Kung University (SERC/NCKU) in Tainan, Taiwan, to provide integrated, multi-disciplinary and result-oriented approaches to solving a number of industrial application projects, including the remediation and redevelopment of a mercury and dioxin contaminated decommissioned site in An-Nan, Tainan. During the period of 2007-2010, Dr. Chao led an academic and consultant consortium to help Taiwan’s Industrial Development Bureau to develop and implement material-energy synergy networks in Lin-Hai and Lin-Yuan Industrial Parks, contributing to the recycling and reuse of a total of 9 million tonnes of industrial waste and hence reduction of millions of carbon emissions per year. As Executive Vice President of Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan, Dr. Chao instituted a 3-year cross-college GREEnS (Global Research and Education on Environment and Society) Program, which resulted in TIMES’ ranking of Tunghai University as one of the world’s top performers in the USR (University Social Responsibility) category. In 2013-2016, Dr. Chao served as an advisor to the 17-million Euro consortium Taking Nanotechnological Remediation Processes from Lab Scale to End User Applications for the Restoration of a Clean Environment (NANOREM) project leading to the commercial application of nano zero valent iron (nZVI) for cleanup and redevelopment of sites contaminated with chloro-organic compounds and heavy metals in Switzerland and other EU states.

Dr. Chao has also enhanced the waste management discipline and more broadly the environmental arena through his 20+ years of service to A&WMA in various capacities to actively push sustainable waste management practices through conferences and specialty conferences from within Technical Council where he has served in various leadership positions. He is currently the Technical Council Vice Chair and soon to be the Chair starting in 2024. In addition, he is A&WMA’s Chair of the International Affairs Committee. He also served as the sixth President of Taiwan Association for Aerosol Research (TAAR) from 2002-2004, and helped upgrade the stature of its Journal of Aerosol and Air Quality Research (JAAQR) to an international journal with a 2022 impact factor of 4.0. In 2014, Dr. Chao helped to co-sponsor A&WMA’s successful and well-received Specialty Conference on Sustainable Resources and Air Quality Management Conference in I-Lan, Taiwan. Dr. Chao is professional engineer (P.Eng.) in Ontario and a Fellow of both A&WMA and TAAR.

Chih Chao

Chih C. Chao

Richard I. Stessel Waste Management Award