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2018 Richard I. Stessel Waste Management Award

The Richard I. Stessel Waste Management Award, established by the Board of Directors on June 29, 1989 and named for Stessel in 2012, is for an individual or organization related to the field of waste management, and can be conferred for:

  • Outstanding achievements in the science and art of waste management. The accomplishment on the part of the recipient is technological in nature and widely recognized by persons in the field; OR
  • Outstanding achievement in the management, prevention and regulation of wastes. The recipient may be an employee in government, industry, education or research, whose accomplishments have led to minimizing the impact of waste in the environment; OR
  • Distinguished achievement as an educator in the field of waste management.

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.  The Richard I. Stessel Award may be awarded to members and nonmembers of the Association, or to an agency.

A&WMA presents the 2018 Richard I. Stessel Waste Management Award to Morton A. Barlaz.

Dr. Morton A. Barlaz is Distinguished University Professor and Head of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University (NC State). He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Barlaz has established himself as a leader in research on a number of aspects of municipal solid waste engineering and management. His research includes work on biological and chemical processes that occur in landfills, strategies for the long-term management of landfills, and the application of life-cycle analysis to solid waste management.

Dr. Barlaz was the first to present models of landfill gas production and collection that describe how the gas collection efficiency varies with time during landfill operation. He was also the first to develop a quantitative basis for assigning waste component-specific decay rates for use in gas production models. By coupling a temporally varying gas collection efficiency with waste-specific decay rates, he illustrated how the burial of rapidly biodegradable wastes results in increased emissions and not increased energy recovery as is commonly assumed. His research represents the state-of-the-art in landfill gas modeling and has been adopted in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waste Reduction Model <link: https://www.epa.gov/warm/landfilling-and-landfill-carbon-storage-waste-reduction-model-warm> that is available to landfill engineers and solid waste planners.

Dr. Barlaz’s research on the anaerobic microbial ecology of landfills and microbial population development during waste decomposition has served as the foundation for a large body of research on municipal solid waste (MSW) decomposition, bioreactor landfills, and the impact of industrial wastes on MSW decomposition. His research on the microbiology of waste decomposition helped the solid waste industry with the field-scale implementation of bioreactor landfills and the interpretation of field-scale monitoring data. In addition, his research on the biodegradability of individual components of MSW has been used as input data for national greenhouse gas emissions inventories in the United States and Australia.

Most recently, Dr. Barlaz has been leading a multi-investigator project to develop a model to predict landfill temperatures in consideration of a number of biological and chemical reactions, as well as physical processes that occur in MSW landfills. This research is motivated by a problem in engineering practice, as there have been several reports of MSW landfills that have been experiencing temperatures in excess of 80–100 °C.

Dr. Barlaz was the first to describe how the 30-year post-closure monitoring period for MSW landfills, as described in federal regulations, is inadequate. His publication presented the basis for a methodology to evaluate when a landfill is no longer a threat to human health and the environment; stimulated considerable applied research; and, in collaboration with Geosyntec Engineers, inspired the development of a protocol to evaluate when a landfill can be considered functionally stable and no longer a threat to human health and the environment. The performance-based approach to the long-term management of landfills has been adopted in several states. In addition, Dr. Barlaz was invited to present his performance-based approach to senior Dutch regulators in The Hague in 2011.

Dr. Barlaz has also established himself as a leader in the application of life-cycle analysis to solid waste management. His research resulted in development of the Municipal Solid Waste Decision Support Tool (MSW-DST) in 2001, which is a life-cycle model of MSW management alternatives. RTI International further developed the MSW-DST into a downloadable desktop application with support from EPA. The MSW-DST has been used for more than 100 case studies of MSW management throughout the United States. In addition, NC State conducted a large and complex case study for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, the results of which were presented to a statewide panel appointed by the governor.

More recently, he led a team at NC State on the development of a second-generation life-cycle tool (Solid Waste Optimization Life-Cycle Framework, or SWOLF) that incorporates dynamic changes to waste composition and generation, as well as changes to the greenhouse gas intensity (kg CO2/kwh) of the U.S. energy grid. The dynamic nature of the model makes it possible to study how the value of energy recovered from waste changes as fuels supplying the U.S. energy grid change, and how this impacts the selection of optimal MSW management systems that will be in place for decades.

Dr. Barlaz is co-editor-in-chief of Waste Management and co-chair of the Global Waste Management Symposium. He previously served as an associate editor for the Journal of Environmental Engineering and co-chair of the bi-annual Intercontinental Landfill Research Symposium. He was awarded the Frederick George Pohland Medal by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) and is a Fellow of both the American Society of Civil Engineers and AEESP.